Living with the virus in Singapore

By: Mario D. Dalangin - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | January 27,2022 - 08:03 AM

Before the pandemic, my wife and I visited Singapore many times and enjoyed the beauty of this Lion City. We stayed with our daughter and her family on Choa Chu Kang Avenue, a 45-minute Grab ride from the airport.

During my morning walks, I saw kamias trees lining the road, bus drivers waving with smiles, cars at a halt as I cross the streets, and pedestrians greeting me. I saw carts beautifully decorated with ribbons, and ladies in colorful umbrellas, their dogs wearing sunglasses. I also saw young students, boys and girls, outside school campuses at 9:30 in the morning loudly talking, others playing basketball in courts albeit football is the nation’s favorite sport. Nursery students 3-5 years old were in tow with their teachers; innocent faces, smiling as I touched their foreheads and blessed them, their small voices of “good morning” warmed me. There were old people, passing time in coffee shops; employees and students hurrying to catch a bus or train; people sitting on benches smoking, butts of cigarettes on sidewalks; seniors, men and women, cleaning toilets, parks, and train terminals.

I envied Singapore’s wide and open spaces between condominiums and housing units, big trees in columns beautifully aligned along the streets, wide sidewalks with benches, and numerous public sport facilities like swimming pools, stadiums, and wellness centers.

I loved how women dried their clothes; as if raising a flag, they’d hang them on big sticks, lifting them till they reach tall and big “sampayans” placed by the windows and backdoors of their houses. Then sunlight would pierce them in a lovely orange glow.

COVID-19 came in March 2019, and so did my Singaporean granddaughter, Shereen Ysabell, who was born on Nov. 22, 2021.

The virus wreaked havoc all over the world including Singapore, a country I fondly love. My daughter gives me updates regularly on how the government addresses the virus.

Residents are provided with free reusable and disposable surgical masks. As the country gears toward “living with the virus,” each resident has received free antigen test kits for home use; if result is positive with mild symptoms, he will undergo 72 hours home quarantine, then repeat the test. If the result is negative, he can resume his normal activities. If not, he will continue his self-isolation with self-administered antigen test daily. If his condition worsens, like having symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, and prolonged fever, he sees a doctor or goes to a hospital for RT-PCR test. The Ministry of Health guides him until he recovers.

Contact-tracing called “trace together” is done via apps administered by the Ministry of Health downloaded through one’s cellphone or laptop. If he goes to a public place and contacts someone with the virus, a warning will pop up on his device. For seven days, he will self-quarantine, take antigen test daily, report to the health agency until he tests negative through RT-PCR.

Anti-vaxxers in Singapore constitute about five percent of the 5.45 million population, 88 percent are fully vaccinated, the rest undecided. Children aged 5 years old and above get the jabs.

My granddaughter will not yet get the jab, instead her head will be shaven soon as her parents have arranged an “aqiqah,” an Islamic birth tradition where she is regarded as a blessing. A sheep will be offered as a sacrifice whose meat will be given to the poor, as we pray to God and Allah to end this pandemic.


Mario D. Dalangin is 66 years old, semi- retired, and a proud grandfather to Rifqi Gabriel and Sheerwin Ysabell.

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: Choa Chu Kang Avenue, pandemic, Shereen Ysabell, Singapore

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