I have reached out to some of my friends around the globe who are originally from the “604” area to see how they’re doing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is the sixth in the Vancouverites in Isolation Elsewhere series:
Vancouverites in Isolation Elsewhere: Richard and Francesca in Singapore
Name: Richard and Francesca (Twitter)
Hometown: West Vancouver
Current City/Home: Singapore
What is your city like right now?
It’s a very strange time because while the rest of the world is shutting down Singapore remains open however, restriction are increasing. When I tell people this their first instinct is to tell me to stay at home with some form of expletive in there. The reality is we have been battling this since early/mid January when it broke out in China. When Singapore activated its response system to covid-19 it included incredibly strict (and impressive) tracing measures which have, until the last few days, meant that there was no community spread and that assertion could be backed up with evidence.
What this has meant is that hawker centers, malls, and most things have remained open and we’ve been encouraged to live life while practicing caution, hand-washing etc. Strict quarantine measures on all people entering the country were put in before there was evidence of community spread and that in turn has meant all imported cases were caught from point of entry and during mandatory quarantine periods. Apart from two separate incidents of panic buying things are available and there is a sense of calm. Local businesses are hurting and a lot of Grab divers (Singaporean Uber) tell me their business is down 40-60%. Small businesses are struggling.
How has COVID-19 personally impacted your day-to-day (work/life routine)?
We’ve been lucky, Francesca’s role as a gynaecological physio hasn’t seen too much impact yet because even though there’s a virus women are still having babies and pelvic rehab is necessary.
I on the other hand was in final rounds of interviews for an exciting new role in the sports industry operating across Asia Pacific and found that they have withdrawn the role until this pandemic subsides. It’s a bad time to look for a job. Moving to Singapore as a trailing spouse was a leap of faith in itself, and I wouldn’t change the decision we made, but this pandemic has taken what is already a difficult transition (new country, new to Asia, new languages, new networks etc.) and made it even harder. Oh and the wedding we’ve been planning for is well up in the air now because of social distancing measures.
How have you been coping with isolation/quarantine/lockdown?
Luckily Singapore is not in lockdown. There seems an inevitability about getting quarantined but Singapore’s methods have been impressive and there isn’t the same sense of inevitability about contracting covid-19. Even without being in full lockdown we’re opting not to head out much.
Singapore closed bars, cinemas etc. last weekend and that’s curbed any social opportunities that were left. One thing that’s been cool is seeing how business is getting creative. Legendary Singapore nightclub Zouk have moved their live DJ sets to the cloud and you can stream their gigs live to your home. I thought that was pretty cool!
What have you been cooking at home?
The usual! Though I’m lucky that I’ve got a big stash of Kraft Dinner that my folks brought over when recently visiting. That’s my full lockdown emergency stash.
Do you have enough toilet paper?
Yup! There was panic buying but Singapore’s PM was quick to come out and calm the situation down. Singapore was hit hard by SARS and so it’s a sensitive topic here that they have prepared extensively for. His message was very impactful and culturally in this part of the world there are higher levels of obedience when it comes to listening to the government.
What’s keeping you most entertained?
I’ve been spending time mentoring a few young social enterprises, recently became co-editor of an academic journal, and downloaded some new ebooks. Francesca’s catching up on the latest series of Greys Anatomy, the New Amsterdam and (regretfully) Love is Blind. I hear Tiger King is on the horizon but I’m going to stick to weekly episodes of the final season of Homeland. My Xbox has also allowed me to game with friends in Toronto, London and Vancouver. Also… I’m sure this is the case for everyone, but whatsapp is blowing up with memes!
What makes you happy right now?
I miss sports SO much. I’m choosing to find happiness in the little things. Right now the negative things seem way bigger than the positive things (cancelled wedding, lost jobs, etc). But, friends that will chuck over a great new track I haven’t heard, or there’s no shortage of brain teasers floating around which provide a nice distraction and help you get through the day.
Any advice for Vancouverites?
Kindness and understanding are such important virtues right now. When someone is irritated or angry at you take a moment to understand there’s a number of things that could be going on. People are losing incomes, family members are sick, and life is incredibly uncertain. There’s so much we don’t know when we interact with someone and sometimes their irritation, frustration, or anger is probably just a manifestation of the difficulties they’re struggling with. Don’t take it personally. Read between the lines. This too shall pass and we will see you on the other side. We need to come together and remember others might be struggling with things we aren’t capable of understanding.
Fill in the blank: When this is all over I really want to ____
… get married! Francesca and I are meant to get married this summer in Whistler but it looks like we’re going to have to remix our plans. Not sure what will happen but that’ll be a nice symbol of life returning to normal when we get around to it.
Read more in my COVID-19 news and community series here »