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Life under lockdown – the view from Singapore

Sally Connell was living a sunny life on Sentosa, Singapore’s resort island, with her husband Mike and children, Sophie and Will, before the coronavirus hit. These days the family is locked down in their condo apartment as the government desperately tries to ‘circuit break’ the surging number of virus cases. Carolynne Dear finds out how she’s coping.

The Connell family making the best of things in their Singapore apartment.

Everything is closed. Well, except for grocery stores and pharmacies. But I’m ok with that and I actually welcomed it. The harder we go, hopefully the quicker things will be resolved.

“I chose to lockdown three weeks ahead of the government bringing in these tougher measures because my daughter Sophie is immune suppressed. I couldn’t risk her being exposed. Both the kids were resistant as all their friends were still socialising, but now nobody is allowed out it’s a lot easier.

“I miss our condo pool and the beaches. Living in a hot country, we used to have a dip most days. We’re not allowed to socialise outside of our family unit and we’re only allowed out to exercise or to buy groceries.

“As a mum, I’m loving having so much time with the kids. They’re older (Sophie is 18 and Will 15) so I don’t have to get involved much with their home schooling. Will is in Year 10 and does online learning via video. He’s pretty independent so I just leave him to it. It must be a nightmare with younger children.

“Soph has been the most impacted as she is in Year 13 and was just weeks away from sitting her IB exams. And now suddenly school is done, just like that. She has a graduation gown hanging in the cupboard that will never be worn. I’m gutted for her. She had planned to take off to Europe before starting university in Australia next February, now she’ll be locked down here instead. She’s also had to cancel her graduation celebration trip to Koh Samui with her friends.

“However, the school’s been great and has set up an online programme of pre-university learning in each student’s area of study. Hopefully that will be of some benefit to her.

“Selfishly, I’m lapping up all the time I’m spending with her. This time next year, she won’t be with us. She’s great company and also my daily workout buddy. We’ve also taken to Houseparty and we spend most weekends having virtual drinks with friends all over the world. That’s been an unexpected upside.

“Another bonus is no longer having a cleaner. The kids have suddenly had a crash course in housework. They are now experts at vacuuming, mopping, and scrubbing their own bathrooms.

“We’ve slotted into a daily routine. I drag myself out of bed at 6am for a run along the waterfront. I find being up to see the sunrise helps with my mental health. It’s too hot to run during the day, anyway. However, being up so early does make for a long day.

“Unfortunately I’m not working at the moment. I’m a nurse and recently retrained as a mothercraft nurse and breastfeeding specialist. I would normally fill my day with postnatal home visits, but sadly that’s no longer allowed. I try to help new mums as much as I can via video calls, but it’s not really the same. I do worry about postnatal depression numbers rocketing with all of this. I love my job and really miss seeing the mums and babies one-on-one.

“As a registered nurse I have volunteered to work in one of the public hospitals here if needed. The government has been looking for medical workers to step in if things get really bad. So far I haven’t been called up and I’m hoping I won’t be needed. I haven’t worked in a hospital since before the kids were born, so my skills are a bit rusty to say the least.

“Initially the government did an amazing job of containing the virus. They put restrictions in place back in January when we had our first case and swiftly implemented contact tracing and a wide testing and isolation programme. But returning Singapore residents brought the virus with them in large numbers. We have 200,000 foreign workers in Singapore, all living in close quarters in dormitories, and sadly the virus has broken out there. The dormitories have been locked down so the virus hasn’t really spread to the wider Singapore community. It must be pretty awful for them. I’m currently helping to collect toiletries, groceries and supplies to send to them.

“The most challenging aspect of the lockdown for me is not being able to travel. Singapore is tiny and we were in the habit of ‘escaping’ every few months. We lived in Hong Kong for a decade so I’m missing seeing my friends there. And I’m also eating WAY more than I normally would, simply out of boredom.

“On the plus side, it’s good to have my husband home rather than jetting around the world on business trips. We’ve been enjoying long, lazy lunches together and family dinners every evening. We’re also saving quite a lot of money by not going out.

“Our travel plans are on hold and I’m trying not to think about them too much. We were meant to be having a big, extended family reunion at Club Med Bintan in July. That has obviously been postponed. I was hoping to take the kids to see family in Australia in August but it looks like that too is unlikely to happen. We’d all love to fly up to Hong Kong for Sevens in October, but I’m not getting my hopes up. We also have a white Christmas in Whistler booked and I will be absolutely gutted if we can’t do that. It was meant to be our last family holiday before Sophie leaves for university.”

This article first appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Asia Family Traveller magazine. Never miss an issue by subscribing now.

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