Seen as yesterday marked the day where mandatory mask wearing was a thing of the past, I thought I would write a short reflection on my time in Singapore during the pandemic.
Just over a year ago I wrote an article about how I travelled home to the UK during Covid, adhered to all restrictions and still tested positive on arrival. Those who read that article would have remembered it was one of anger, annoyance and general frustration of the situation the world was in. Even though being on a Vaccinated Travel Lane flight, I still had to quarantine longer than those that were on regular, more cheaper flights, which generally left me feeling embittered about every rule and regulation.
I am here to tell you today that I no longer feel like this! I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel and I’m so happy that things have returned to the way they almost were previously! I was so frustrated seeing other countries opening up and resuming normal activities, where here in Singapore I almost felt like we were going backwards. But I now realise that all of that has been for this moment.
As opposed to some countries who massively relaxed restrictions at the expense of their own people, or reacted too drastically and have been in perpetual lockdown, I am so glad to say this I am still in Singapore. Even though at times it may have felt like we were yo-yoing in and out of mini-lockdowns, we have to look at how far we have come; in comparison to our 2.2 Million cases, only 0.08% were reported to be fatal, which, to me, is a huge win for Singapore.
I do think this is due to the rapid response Singapore had in relation to the vaccine; 90.85% of Singapore’s population are fully vaccinated, in comparison to the global average of 71.8% of people being fully vaccinated.
I know that during a global pandemic, economy might be the last thing that some people think about, but it is a true reflection of the individual‘s ability to earn a living. It’s wanting having our health affected, but also having our money affected as well can be life altering for the worse. Although many lost their jobs during the pandemic, Singapore did surprisingly well at rebounding it’s economy. Singapore’s total output exceeded even the pre-pandemic level. This is in comparison to certain sectors in UK, US, and a lot of Europe, where we are seeing possible recession.
And don’t get me wrong, Singapore was not 100% immune. Major sectors such as hospitality and tourism were massively affected here, and I could definitely see how quiet the country was during the lockdown. It was very sad seeing lots of great bars and restaurants closing for good, even after government support they could not withstand the pandemic. It was pretty depressing at times walking around Sentosa seeing a ghost town. I’m very glad now to see the city bustling and full again!
This definitely became a focal point of conversation during the past few years. I even wrote an article on how to have a healthy conversation without mentioning Covid- it certainly became the main talking point with my family back at home when we Skyped every weekend, and I know most people were becoming totally fed up of it.
I really do think that Covid-19 will have a long lasting effect in terms of mental health. A few generations in particular I think will be gravely affected. The first being those that turned 18 during the lockdowns. They had had no opportunity to go out to bars or clubs (most of them have closed down now, too!) and no opportunity to develop all the social skills that you get when meeting new people in casual settings. This also goes for those who went to university or even graduated during the pandemic; I think I would be a completely different person if I did uni online. Those years really shaped me as a person; I became independent, grew up and made my own mistakes. How will people who were indoors the whole time experience that now?
The second is very young children during the pandemic. I’m no psychologist, but I can’t imagine that a baby or child only seeing the same three or four people for the first couple of years of their life had a positive impact.
Of course the last is the older generation. Maybe I’m saying this because I’m far away from home, but seeing relatives after a few years makes you realise how precious time is.
I am glad that Singapore has seemed to embrace a more open conversation when it comes to mental health, and I don’t think this would’ve happened had we not had a pandemic. So I really do see that as a step in the right direction.
Work From Home
What really was great for my mental health was when Singapore re-opened slightly so that we could have a hybrid mix of working from home and also returning to the office. Don’t get me wrong, working from home is great, but sitting in the same four walls every day was becoming very mundane. I now love the option of being able to go into the office to work and see my colleagues and have that human social interaction when I can, but not having it be mandatory. Maybe also this is due to my work; in my old job here in Singapore, when I first arrived, the work environment was incredibly toxic. Even if we were genuinely ill, we were encouraged to still come into work, and if we did take an MC, it almost felt like we were being punished when we came back. I now think this kind of behaviour in a company cannot fly post-Covid.
If I were to summarise and look back on the past few years, I understand why many people left the country; the rules were strict and harsh and it’s felt particularly restrictive for foreigners, especially when we could see our own countries opening up. But if I’m brutally honest, I think maybe a lot of those people might regret leaving Singapore now. We have returned to a new normal which really does feel like normal. I barely talk about Covid really with my colleagues, and everything feels a lot more free and easy. This final restriction of masks on public transport being removed, for me, really symbolises an end to a horrible point in time for us and I look forward to all the things that the future in Singapore will bring.