Stay at home notice
Thomas Lim and his wife had to cut short their trip to Morocco to come back to Singapore and ended up with a Stay-Home Notice.
Thomas Lim, a freelance licensed tour guide and actor, thought he was going to enjoy a trip to Morocco, his first time being there, to check out the sights and sounds with a group of 38 Singaporeans. However, thanks to Covid-19, it turned into an adventure the 67-year-old will likely not forget anytime soon:
I understand you decided to go to Morocco in early March despite the tenuous situation regarding Covid-19. Why didn’t you cancel your trip?
I booked my group tour on the first week of January this year. Prior to our departure, we asked and checked several times with our travel agent about cancelling or postponing our trip. But, our travel agent assured us that it was ok to travel and it would not be cancelled because they had checked with the relevant authorities including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). The trip was supposed to be from March 12 to 22.
It turned into an adventure very quickly, didn’t it?
On March 16, our group tour was called off because the Moroccan government ordered a lockdown from the evening of March 15 to May 15. We were anxious and worried. Our travel agent and MFA worked very hard to get us out of Morocco. We finally flew out on March 20 to London first, and finally returned to Singapore via Doha safely on March 21. Some of the Singaporeans in the group tour got to fly back a day earlier but the rest of us stayed on as the travel agent was trying to secure more air tickets so the wait was concerning. We did have dinner on our own in our rooms – a first for a group tour!
Once you came back to Singapore, you were issued a Stay-Home Notice (SHN). Tell me about your first day of SHN?
When we arrived at Changi Airport, we were served with a SHN by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and health officers before we crossed the ICA counters. After we got home, my wife Phyllis and I had a good rest after dinner which was bought by our son. The SHN only kicked in at 12:01am on March 22.
The first day was normal as we had many things to do such as unpacking our luggages, washing our dirty clothes and other laundry, and cleaning the house. We were just thankful that we are back home safely.
As each day proceeded, what made you decide to also get fit and exercise?
On the second day, I decided to exercise and stay fit, so as not to worry about getting infected by Covid-19. Before my travel and SHN, I do run and jog, twice or three times a week along the Singapore River Promenade and the Tiong Bahru neighbourhood, but never exercised at home. Since I could not leave home for my runs, I tried to do warm-ups and stretching exercises, skipping, arm workouts with weights, and planking. I started with about 20 minutes on the first day and eventually was doing about 45 to 60 minutes daily.
Was it tough each day figuring out what to do and stay sane in your confined space?
No, I had no problem figuring out what to do daily in my confined space. Besides the exercise regime which I set aside every day from between 4pm to 5.30pm, I found other things to do, like cleaning the house, doing the daily laundry, posting on Facebook, ironing clothes and my recent love, cooking for the family – breakfast, lunch and dinner – when we did not order from GrabFood delivery. I cooked all kinds of food such as claypot chicken; steamed eggs; Teochew porridge with sardines, tofu and preserved lettuce; spaghetti bolognese; and more. Some days I also called friends or my siblings to say hello.
How was it being with your wife in that space?
Phyllis and I are very independent; we both have our own hobbies and work. So, when we are at home, we respect and give each other the space and time when needed to do our own things. Then we help each other in the housework. A rare thing I did during this period was watching Korean dramas and the news on most evenings with her. We encourage each other that the 14 days would soon be over. We reminded each other to take our temperature and wear a mask, when our two sons came home from work, etc.
Your sons, who live with you, also provided food. Can you share more?
One of my sons was doing his reservist in-camp training during our SHN. Luckily, the other son, who was working, could help us buy food and groceries. Our biggest problem, during SHN was throughout the 14 days, we placed an online purchase with NTUC delivery but couldn’t even get a delivery scheduled date. We also tried others every day, online and still could not get any food or groceries delivered to us during our SHN.
You decided to chronicle your 14 days of SHN on Facebook. Why?
I have been using Facebook like my diary for years. Before Covid-19, I posted my activities on Facebook almost daily. During my 14-day SHN, I thought there would be thousands out there also serving their SHNs and some may have difficulties coping with staying at home so why not share about my experiences. I was hoping by doing so, it may give some ideas to others on how to survive their SHNs, and stay fit and healthy.
You love your beer too as I saw from your posts!
Yes, I love beer, it’s like my ‘ang moh liang teh’ or cooling tea. I always reward myself with beer whenever I am done with my running as it motivates me to run. I earn my beer in another words; I can go without beer if I do not run or exercise. But I love both – run and beer. This translated while serving my SHN!
Which day during your SHN was your best day and why?
Every day was a good day, when my wife and I woke up without a fever or any other symptoms of Covid-19.
Besides cooking, you also got delivery too which I am sure helped eased the 14 days?
Yes, food delivery helped a lot when my fridge ran out of food to cook.
Let’s talk about your day of freedom on April 5. How did it feel? What did you do first?
April 5 was a sign of relief! I was thankful that I went through the SHN without any symptoms of Covid-19. On that day, I went out with my wife and my younger son, who came back from reservist, for a morning ‘freedom’ walk in the neighbourhood and the neighbourhood park. Then we proceeded to my favourite fishball noodle stall for my dry fishball mee pok with chilli.
What lessons did you learn during your SHN?
- Do not take anything for granted and nothing is permanent.
- Family members, loved ones and good friends are strong pillars of support that you can depend on in difficult times.
- Your love and concern for others in the past are rewarded by their love and concern in this difficult period.
Two days later, you now have to work from home or stay at home. How much different is it to the SHN?
After two days of freedom, the ‘circuit breaker’ stay home rule kicked in. As I had just completed a 14-day SHN, to stay home for another month was just a matter of more getting used to it. My daily household activities remain and continue to be the same as when I was on SHN.
The main difference is that I can go out to buy food and groceries when needed. To stay safe, I wear a mask when I go to the food centre or to the wet market and supermarkets. I can go out to run or jog alone in the parks and the neighbourhood. However, I continue to do some exercises at home like planking and arm workouts, which I love doing now.
Another difference, there is also a tighter shared space now. Both my sons work from home. One is a teacher so he needs to conduct lessons to his class/students in the day via his laptop while the other communicates with his office most of the time on the phone. This means my wife and I have had to adjust ourselves with all this.
My freelance work continues to have no assignments. The good thing is we can eat our meals together as a family. This morning, the first weekend of ‘circuit breaker’, my family went out early in the morning for a family brisk walk in the neighbourhood park. Of course, keeping our safe distance.
What advice would you give to other seniors trying to cope during this tough time?
- Adopt an open mind to the changes. Try doing new things at home, be it exercises, board games, take up a new hobby, cooking or household work. Just find something you like to do.
- Stay positive, do not spend too much time watching TV especially news or social media on Covid-19, fake news or demoralising videos. Look at the good side of it, like having time together to spend with your family. Embrace the changes and what is happening such as staying at home as it can make you a better person and more understanding. This change can help us see the bad habits that we had over the years, and that it is time to change for the better.