After approximately 3 months in Italy (see my post on Singapore to Italy), it’s finally time to return. I was getting ready for the flight from Italy to Singapore, and my quarantine in Singapore at a Stay Home Notice (SHN) facility, and was totally ready to embrace our warm humid weather.
Before returning, I made sure to do the following steps, 3 days prior to my return, and this is according to ICA’s guidelines:
- Electronically submit pre-trip health and travel history declarations
- Register and pay for my post-arrival COVID-19 PCR test
- Install and activate TraceTogether and WhatsApp on phone (if you have not done so before)
During the check-in at Milan Malpensa Airport, the check-in counter staff had also kindly reminded me to submit my pre-trip health and travel history declarations. I was asked to fill up a self-declaration form to submit to the police counter before clearing immigration. The airport was very empty, shops within the transit area were open, just really quiet.
The whole boarding process was very quick. I counted there should be less than 30 passengers within the flight, and allowed for very adequate social distancing with the airplane. In my cabin, there was only 3 passengers including me.
After 13 hours of flight from Italy to Singapore, constant feeding from Singapore Airlines, arrival at Singapore Changi Airport was greeted by a beautiful sunrise.
Our Singapore airport was really quiet. I found out later that there were only 7 of us who came from the same flight to the SHN hotel. The rest of another 10 passengers were transiting. From the officers clearing immigration, the many marshals who were leading the way all the way from the plane to the testing centre, everyone was so welcoming and warm, you can sense the smile from their greetings and face even though they were behind a facial mask. After the long flight from Italy to Singapore, I’m ready to start my quarantine, getting my mindset ready to embrace all the uncertainties during this Covid-19 Pandemic.
I cleared immigration very quickly again, picked up my luggage, and followed the pathway to the testing centre. There’ll be no way anyone will get confused, because the pathway was clearly marked by dividers and dotted with marshals every 2-3 metres. This is Singapore! Ever so organised!
The testing centre is a makeshift air-conditioned tent located just outside the airport terminal.
Systematically, I did the 6 steps—registration, verified my information, got tested, was led to the waiting bay for the bus to take us all to the SHN hotel. More importantly, it’s good practice to make sure your phone has the wifi/ internet and keep your pre-registration emails, screenshots available.
Despite all the horrific stories I heard about the swab test, I found it slightly uncomfortable. The bigger than usual cotton tip was dipped down my throat (but I didn’t feel it going down that deep), and up my nostrils. It felt like some worms wriggling within the nose but very briefly. So the swab test wasn’t that bad after all. The results were sent via email to me the next noon. I guessed if you didn’t have the virus, no one will call you.
The mystery of which hotel we will end up in was daunting, I prayed, that it’s going to be a nice hotel with a balcony to be cooped up for 2 full weeks. No one knows where we will be taken to, the bus driver wouldn’t reveal.
Until we arrived at Swissotel The Stamford, I heaved a sigh of relief. The whole hotel was closed to accommodate SHN, thus was closed off to all public. A side door opened for the concierge to receive deliveries. Our bus had to wait for the people from the previous arrival bus to clear their check-in to the hotel before ‘releasing’ us. The whole check-in process was again very organised, Singapore styled. Upon receiving the room key, payment was processed on the spot—SGD2,000 inclusive of 3 meals a day.
Days of worry finally settled after I got into the room, I had a great view, balcony, big room and super king sized bed. That was a good start to a full 14 days of quarantine in Singapore.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner were provided and had to be pre-booked through an online form. The meals were delivered in a plastic box with utensils and hanged outside the door at 3 interval timings. I had never once seen anyone at the door when I opened, the hotel really ensured social distancing between the hotel staff and hotel guests.
Here’s a snapshot of my breakfast, lunch and dinners. Some hits and some misses. A couple of times I got the food I didn’t order but keep calm and just eat it LOL.
The lunches and dinners are not all perfect but I’m grateful food were delivered on time and I was definitely overfed.
To fix my longing and cravings for local food, I used a few apps and websites to order some supplies. The hotel had a concierge counter that receives stuff before sending off to the rooms:
- Equatorial Wines – A personal friend of mine runs the business and personally curates the wines from Australia, New Zealand as well as South America. Delivery was done within the next day.
- Lazada Red Mart app – For fruits, chips, juices, etc. Delivery was done within the next day. I ordered chips, cookies, instant noodles, juices and milk.
- Deliveroo or Food Panda app – For food deliveries. I made sure to order from restaurants within the same building compound of the hotel, so the food arrives warm and prompt. There was a time I ordered from a few streets away and it suddenly rained heavily, so I got my food 2 hours late. There is minimal order fees (around SGD12-15 per order) so most times I ended up ordering for 2 meals at a go. Deliveroo seems to charge lower delivery fees than Food Panda.
- MacDonald’s app – MacDonald’s delivers free and quite quickly.
During this 14-day, I put on quite some weight with all the constant eating and bingeing on local yummy food, strangely did not feel motivated to exercise at all LOL.
Throughout my quarantine in Singapore, I received about 3 calls from ICA on phone and WhatsApp video calls to verify my location. Yes our officers were doing their job.
To be honest I was quite enjoying the first week stay but slight depression started kicking in the second week. I was listless and uneasy, though at the same time I felt really blessed that at least I got to open the balcony for some fresh air throughout the day. Keeping myself busy at work and planning for things to do after the quarantine helped to ease things up a little.
Few days before my scheduled checkout, an officer called me to inform the date and time of the second PCR test, they also sent a link via WhatsApp for me to make payment online. The PCR test took place within the hotel the day before my check-out day. There was a long queue but cleared very quickly. This time round, the swab Q-tip went in quite deep inside both nostrils, 10 sec on each side, it was uncomfortable for sure but not painful. I got the result on SMS the next morning 8am.
The 14 days quarantine is strict, I checked in on a Sunday and thus checked out on a Sunday 2 weeks after. I was scheduled to take a test on a Saturday morning so that the test results will be released the following day on Sunday, and after that, the check out process will begin. Everyone will be assigned a time to check out, which we have to strictly adhere to. The hotel was nice enough to supply what I needed throughout stay though there was no cleaning service. They also offered help with the luggages.
Update: I got to know that some friends who arrived weeks after me were checked into different classes of hotels, I guess the allocation goes by batches and no one can tell where the SHN will be served.
I’m looking forward to be vaccinated and hopefully traveling will not be such a big hassle in the near future.
PS: Do check out the interview from CNA Digital on Singapore residents who traveled overseas for various reasons. Thanks for featuring me!