The Not so New Normal

We are still in Phase Two of the Circuit Breaker here in Singapore. That means working from home (unless it’s absolutely necessary to go into the office), masks worn everywhere outside your own home, tracer app on outside of your own home, check in and check out of everywhere (malls, shops, parks!) and safe distancing everywhere of course.

The government has allowed 13 attractions to open at 25% capacity (booking in advance mandatory). Bars are still closed but restaurants can open with safe distancing. We can meet in groups of up to 5 people.

Church is still online – and actually has a better reach and is more convenient for most people. Services are now only an hour instead of two (win-win!) Home groups, bible classes and mentoring are via Zoom. The new normal just seems normal now.

Staying safe in Singapore

We still can’t leave Singapore though as unless we have a very good reason to do so (seeing family isn’t one of them) the government probably won’t allow us to return. There is an approval process to obtain permission to return.

Approval rules to get back into SG:

Work Pass Holders: This includes Entre Pass/PEP/Employment Pass /Dependents Pass (‘DP’) (on Letter of Consent) (‘LOC’) SP, you have to ask permission to return via the Ministry Of Manpower (‘MOM’) , online. Your employer’s HR can do this for you unless you are self employed and have your own Corp Pass, you can apply yourself. If you are solely on DP (without LOC) your spouse’s employer’s HR need to request the approval. If your spouse is self employed then s/he has to do this via Corp Pass.

Approval can be granted on the first attempt or can take up to multiple times (think over 30 times or longer) or anywhere in between. No one knows. An application can be made once every 3 days. If you arrive without approval you will be asked to leave within 48 hours. Before arriving into Singapore you need to submit a Health Declaration online.

Keeping up? This is just for these type of pass holders – there are different rules for Singaporeans, permanent residents and other types of pass holders.

Stay Home Notice (‘SHN’) at dedicated SHN facilities (‘SHNF’)

Since 21 March 2020, all incoming travellers, including Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents and Long Term Pass holders have been required to serve a 14-day Stay-Home-Notice (SHN).

All travellers entering Singapore after 19 July 2020, 2359 hours, and who had remained in: Australia (except Victoria state), Brunei Darussalam, Macao, Mainland China, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam (as per website) or (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Hong Kong, Japan*, Macao, Mainland China, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam (as per site) – there are discrepancies between the two sites regarding Hong Kong and Japan but I suspect that’s due to the rapidly changing conditions – don’t have to serve the SHN at a dedicated SHNF, if you stayed in the above countries for the last consecutive 14 days prior to entry.

Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents may serve their 14-day SHN at their place of residence.

All other travellers entering Singapore (which would include us as EP and DP holders) have to serve their 14-day SHN at dedicated SHNF. Upon arrival back in Singapore the government pick you up at the airport and transfer you to a quarantine hotel. NO you cannot choose your hotel. YES you can request to stay in one room together when you are travelling with family. Costs are S$2000 per person for one room. Families sharing a room is S$1300 per person.

Covid-19 swab test is mandatory before the end of the 14 day SHN and is S$200 per person. A clear test is required before being allowed into Singapore.

Staycation was the name of the game

A lot of expats did not return to their home countries over the long summer holiday as a consequence. We are confined in a safe society. The cost of serving 2 weeks quarantine in home countries and 2 weeks quarantine in Singapore (if permission is granted to return) made summer breaks far too costly and risky for most people. Lots of expats decided to stay put and enjoy Singapore, some booking into hotels locally (usually on Sentosa) for a staycation. We are fortunate to live in a complex with a pool, which has now reopened in Phase two, so we are able to enjoy that too.

Some people have decided to leave permanently either because of redundancy or to re-join families that they were separated from at the outbreak of the pandemic. Tens of thousands of expats has left. The growing anti foreigner sentiment has not helped persuading people to stay either. That appears to be a growing global phenomenon sadly.

The new normal is just normal

The new normal is actually now a new way of life. This pandemic started in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. 8 months later people have adapted to a new way of life. Wearing masks and safe distancing is second nature now. So is working from home. Use of technology (and particularly Zoom) has taken a huge leap forward and forced individuals and institutions online that previously were not, finally embracing the technology that was already there. Companies are realising that employees can and do work effectively from home and don’t need a manager breathing down their necks to be productive. Hopefully trust has improved. People are enjoying the reduced time and costs of commuting meaning more family time. That can only be a good thing for everyone.

The rules and regulations around the globe have been different for every country with differing results. Singapore has mainly been safe, except for those in the foreign worker dormitories, where the virus swept through them at an alarming rate. That uncovered the underside of Singapore and the living conditions in those dormitories. That is now being addressed and improved thankfully.

There is light in the darkness, vaccines are being developed and will probably be available next year. (Obviously the anti vaxxers and conspiracy theorists will object, as will some post modernists – those who think their reality is reality for everyone else too.) Personally I hope the vaccine is made compulsory: it will help to protect the vulnerable who are unable to have a vaccine due to compromised health. (Watch the liberals kick up a fuss about that.) Life will not be able to return to anything resembling the old normal if the vaccine isn’t taken up though. I’d quite like to go to the cinema again at some point in the future. In the meantime in the ‘new’ normal, I’ll continue watching Netflix at home with the family, making microwave popcorn and drinking beer from the local brewery (Trouble Brewery delivers!), enjoying additional time with the family that we didn’t have before.

One thought on “The Not so New Normal

  1. Lots of changes. Singapore has done well overall and foreigners will have to be scrutinized more because who knows where they have been.
    We remain well but pretty isolated to stay safe. Bangalore had 1,000 cases in 3 months but some say the powers that be were taking victory laps instead of getting ready for the next phase. Now we have 3,000+ cases a day. I don’t think this needed to happen. I think we’ve just moved into the #1 city in India for new daily cases. No one knows the “real” story on the hospitals. Ventilators are being sold from India to other countries now and govt is considering the closure of 5 CCC (Covid Care Centres). Private hospitals are pushing for empty beds to be de-classified (as “Covid only”) and put back in the regular health care population. Social media is rife with doctors yelling “don’t come to the hospital”. Reports of 2 nurses per 100 patients, shortages of blood and on and on. Apparently if you have private health insurance (as we do), it’s a huge hassle to get into the hospital. A friend of ours had to show 9 Lak on deposit in her bank to check in.
    Most concerning is the extremely low “contact tracing numbers” in Bangalore. People are not telling other people they are positive because they are afraid of the criticism of others not happy having to test or quarantine. We don’t go out much because too many people wear their masks around their chins or under their noses and only pull it up when they think it is required. I have my mask on protecting them but they are not protecting me by doing the same.
    Like Singapore, many families have left or the spouse and children leave and the husband stays on to work. Like you, it will be difficult to get back in if you leave (not to mention a month of quarantining). Heathers contract ends July 2021 and unless a 100% (or close) effective vaccine is developed, neither of us may be leaving here until then. There is some promising science around cures, vaccines, and regularly ingested aerosols that allow your body to fight the virus. 🤞
    On a positive note, we live in a beautiful community and have a nice walk every morning and evening. Heathers got a great virtual classroom setup and is excited about a different kind of school experience this year.
    So much has changed but will we go back? Will there be a glut of office buildings for sale or rent. Will planes still fly with 400 passengers. Will cinemas survive? They were barely making money before.
    These are the best of times and the worst of times. I loved your list of advantages. More family time, shorter church services (haha) etc.
    I pray you and family stay well and continue to get the most possible from your time in Singapore.

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