Quarantine stories: It is no staycation and “I felt like I am going crazy!”

Wenting Ang
·Contributor
·5-min read
(PHOTO: Peggy Puah)
(PHOTO: Peggy Puah)

SINGAPORE – Since the start of the pandemic, more than half of the 67,000 hotel rooms in Singapore have been used to quarantine travellers and infected locals. The earlier stay-home notices (SHN) are allowed to be carried out at home – 14 days of quarantine without leaving the premises – while the later ones are only allowed to be carried out at designated facilities.

What exactly happens when you are served the 14-day SHN? Do you get to pick which hotel you want to be quarantined at? Can you slip out of the hotel room to grab a pack of chicken rice? Yahoo Lifestyle SEA speaks to two people who had served their 14-day quarantines – one at home and another at a designated facility – to know more about their experiences.

One of the earlier ones to be served a Home Quarantine Order (HQO) in mid-March, graduate student Lena Ngiam realised she was in contact with a COVID-19 positive case at a rock climbing gym through the gym’s social media page. “There were a couple of days of uncertainty and nervousness about how it would affect me before I was finally served the HQO.”

Having heard about the Ministry of Health (MOH) officers knocking on doors all the way till late night to serve the HQOs, Ngiam confirmed, “The quarantine officers came to my house at 2am to serve me the HQO!”

(PHOTO: Lena Ngiam)
(PHOTO: Lena Ngiam)

“During my quarantine, I had to stay in my bedroom at all times, except when I had to use the bathroom (which had to be a separate bathroom from the rest of my family). I had to take my temperature three times a day and record it down, and I would receive a video call three to four times a day from a MOH representative who would check that I was indeed staying in my room and ask for my latest temperature reading. This was sometimes an inconvenience as I had to ensure I was awake to receive the morning call, and still awake at night to receive the night call, which came as late as around midnight on one of the days.”

Confined to, big or small spaces, your room can drive a person up the wall. Chatting with friends over the phone, using social media, and watching YouTube videos are some of the ways Ngiam used to pass time.

“It was also during this period that I started to develop a greater interest in keeping plants in my bedroom, and this escalated greatly during the Circuit Breaker period that came shortly after when it became so convenient to buy plants online.”

Indeed, she was not alone in the whole “becoming greener” stance during the quarantine. We have seen how there was a plant delivery boom in Singapore; Ngiam even added more air-plants and succulents to her collection.

For Peggy Puah however, her SHN was served at a designated facility. Having to make an urgent trip back home to Malaysia due to a family emergency, the marketing executive served a 14-day quarantine in Johor Bahru and another 14-day when she was back in Singapore.

“You cannot pick the hotel that you want to stay for the quarantine. You’ll only know where you have been arranged to stay after you clear the customs.”

(PHOTO: Peggy Puah)
(PHOTO: Peggy Puah)

If you think it is likened to a staycation, Puah is here to tell you otherwise. “The food gets repeated every two to three days, and it is chicken every day. You also have to change the bedsheets yourself and it was not easy. Try changing a king-sized bed’s bedsheets alone.”

The 14-day quarantine costs $2,000 with an additional $186 paid for the swab tests. If it does not hurt you financially, it will definitely challenge you emotionally.

“I felt like I was going crazy! There is a window in the room but it cannot be opened, and hence, there was no fresh air the entire period. You can’t walk out of the room, and can only open the room door to pick up the food left on a chair, placed directly in front of the door.”

Quarantined at Hotel Jen, Puah was grateful that the staff sent a note with each of the meals, encouraging her and giving the whole quarantine experience a little human touch. Thankful that she cleared her 14-day quarantine and was tested negative for COVID-19, Puah is glad to be back at work after the experience of a lifetime.

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