Singapore — A member of a church that had a Covid-19 cluster has described what it is like to be issued with and to live under a quarantine order.
At least 23 people at the Grace Assembly of God tested positive for Covid-19 and Ms Serene Ho was issued with the quarantine order on Feb 12 because she had been in contact with one of those infected.
Ms Ho, a 45-year-old private tutor who lives alone, shared that she felt “like a prisoner” while stuck inside her home for two weeks. She said: “The first three days were bad because all I could think about was my loss of freedom and privacy. I kept counting down to my day of ‘release’.”
The entire experience was riddled with anxiety, solitude, hopelessness, stress, and “an immense sense of loss”. On Feb 12, a Ministry of Health officer visited her at home with the quarantine order, as well as to check her temperature and physical state. She was given a thermometer to use and guidelines to follow. She had to take her temperature three times a day, as well as to wait for calls on her mobile phone from MOH officers checking to ensure that she was at home.
Ms Ho said: “I have a habit of putting my phone on silent mode but because I had to be alert to calls from MOH, I had to put it on sound mode. I did not know when they would call. When I missed a call, I was asked why I wasn’t at my phone. That added stress to the many uncertainties each day.”
And it wasn’t only her own physical and mental state that she worried about. She was also afraid that she had somehow infected other people that she had been in contact with, especially her student, who was in lower primary school. “I felt the great burden of possibly causing this child and her family to be quarantined. What about my friends whom I had met?” No one was quarantined because of her.
And the mental burdens were not just about the possibility of infecting others, or about being forced to stay home alone for the next 14 days. She also explained that it was a feeling of uselessness and helplessness, not being able to do things for herself like buy groceries or get her own meals. However, her friends and church members helped to deliver at least two meals to her each day that she was under quarantine.
While Ms Ho says she understood the need for such a measure, she found it “mentally stressful”. She added: “I can now understand a tiny bit of why the loss of freedom and contact with familiar people is tormenting for prisoners. It was hard for me to reconcile the fact that I was kept away when I was not sick.”
In the end, she reminded herself to focus on life after the quarantine and to remain healthy and strong. She also knew that as long as she did not get sick, her student, nor her student’s family and her friends, would not get sick because of her either.
On the day quarantine ended, the MOH gave her a application form to fill for an allowance scheme and the okay to head out after noon. Although quarantine was difficult, Ms Ho shared that “she was truly happy to go out and get some sunshine and fresh air”. She was also able to get back to work, with the understanding of her student’s family, doing what she loved.
Ms Ho defeated her feelings of isolation and worry by focusing on her own spiritual and personal growth. She did this by spending most of her time in prayer and watching sermons on YouTube. She also chose to watch news about Covid-19 to closely monitor what was happening outside of her home.
So, what advice would she give to those who are issued with a quarantine order: They should not blame anyone but should, rather, focus on the positive. In her own words, “it can happen to anyone”, and she is proof. She is just thankful that she had friends and church members who lent her a helping hand in trying times.
Ms Ho is among the 2,749 people who have completed their quarantine orders in Singapore, as of noon on Feb 28. About 190 people are still under quarantine. /TISG