In late September our hotel quarantine drew to a close, and we faced one final hurdle: one last covid-19 PCR test. So we assembled on the hotel’s pool deck at our appointed time and had our brains probed via nasal cavity. We then returned to our rooms to pack and await our results the next day. On the morning of Day 14 came the news: we all tested negative, and we were free to launch out into the world. Huzzah!
So, covid testing and vaccinations. Not surprisingly Singapore requires quite a bit of testing before letting new people in. We all had a rapid PCR test 48 hours before departing DC. Then we had another PCR test upon arrival at Changi Airport in Singapore. And we were obligated to test ourselves with rapid tests three times during the hotel quarantine stay, uploading the results of each to a government website. So including the aforementioned final test, that makes six covid tests per person between September 15 and October 1. That’s a *lot* of testing.
Once we got the all-clear we booked two minivan taxis for our mountain of luggage and set out for our next temporary home, a three-bedroom serviced apartment at Frasers Place Robertson Walk. The kids finally got away from each other and had their own rooms after months of sharing side-by-side beds in a single hotel room.
Once we were free we read up on Trace Together, the contact tracing app and system that everyone badges in with upon entering any business, school, restaurant, or really anywhere. While vaccination is technically not mandatory for all citizens and residents, going into any store or restaurant is open only to fully vaccinated individuals–which pretty much makes vaccination mandatory.
Singapore requires all new arrivals to be fully vaccinated, so upon arrival at immigration in mid-September we presented our CDC vaccination cards. That bought us 30 days of verified vaccination status in the contact tracing app. But in order to prove our vaccinations long term, we all had to undergo serology tests consisting of a blood draw and antibody test conducted at a local medical clinic. We completed that a few days ago, and our results uploaded to the government’s health app the next day.
There’s a smartphone tracing app that combines check-in with vaccination status, but our odd expat status as US Navy personnel means we can’t use the app. So we always carry our plastic Trace Together tokens and badge in at the readers stationed at the door, and then open up another app to show our vaccination status. The tokens are not great. The batteries die with little warning, and the only way to have it changed is at a community center. While the centers are open seven days a week, they close every evening at 6PM. So if your token dies at 6:30PM and you have restaurant reservations for later that evening, it looks like you’re eating in that night. That said, I am happy to report that the token keeps working even after a trip through the washing machine, which I may or may not have tested firsthand the other day.
Masking up is mandatory everywhere, even outdoors–though going maskless is allowed during vigorous exercise. As I sit here looking out the window, the sun is blazing away at 90 degrees F (32C), with a heat index of 100 F (37C). Walking with bags of groceries wearing a mask is decidedly not great. But as long as it’s the rule, of course we follow it. Gatherings are limited to two people, even within the same family–so we cannot out dine as a family of four. Hopefully this rule changes soon.
So there’s a lot of caution, and precautions, and rules. And again, we follow them all, because we are guests. And yet we are weary. The New York Times summed it up pretty well with their story about the re-opening that didn’t quite happen as planned when the country hit the target of 80% vaccination. As of today, Singapore’s Ministry of Health reports that 84% of Singapore’s total population has completed their covid shots. Covid measures for new arrivals are easing, with hotel quarantines like ours no longer required for vaccinated travelers from designated countries. Hopefully the promised re-opening extends to us soon as well.
Next time on the blog: our dog Ruby finally arrives!