Being quarantined in two different nations provided me with some perspective into how COVID-19 operations and SOPs are executed. This perspective gave me a better understanding into how things are done on the ground and experienced.
Arriving at Nongsa Ferry Terminal in Batam, my sister and I were the only two Singaporean passengers onboard and were immediately brought to the quarantine room prior to immigration clearance. Once there, our details were taken down, the officers in the room were dressed in their uniform and were comfortably and casually seated at their desks.
We were seated at a leather chair in the room and watched as one personnel put on the white PPE in front of our own eyes. I was shocked, impressed, surprised that the officer didn’t go into a separate room to change. I was beginning to question their infection control procedures, and was now curious as to how our swab test would be performed.
Once she had donned her PPE, she pulled out her own chair put it near the door, took out a UTM tube and a swab stick and proceeded to request for one of us to be seated on that chair for the swab test.
There was no disinfecting of the chair before we sat and she proceeded to swab my sister first, it was an OPNP swab (oral and nasal swab). I was shocked and worried because the swab stick used for the NP was the same swab stick used for the OP swab. This means that I was gonna get swabbed by a swab stick bigger than a cotton bud to be put through my nasal passage.
I observed and watched my sister. After she was done, no disinfecting of the seat was done and I was next. I was put through the same process and after I was done, we were asked to clear immigration, which was located just outside.
And when we returned back to the room, the personnel had already doffed and was back to doing her work. Questions arose with regards to infection control measures and procedures, and at that moment, I forgot about my grief. I was more worried about contracting the virus if the measures seemed to be quite lax. We were told it would take about 2-3 days to receive our swab test results and hopefully, it would take lesser time than that since there wasn’t many swabs to be tested, but the concern was that in the whole of Batam, there was only ONE LAB processing.
Not encouraging to hear that but we can only pray for the best.
Once we cleared immigration, we were driven to our quarantine hotel, Harris Hotel Batam located at Batam Centre, which was a good 30 minutes drive. We were asked to make deposit for minimum 2 nights and then we were brought up.
This was my first visit to Harris Hotel Batam. The only other hotels I’ve stayed in were at cheap hotels that were managed by the local mafias, so this was a huge upgrade from anything I’ve experienced.
The room was spacious and comfortable. There was ample space to pray and workout, plus a window view of the port where I could see the ferries lined up next to one another in the waters.
The first full day of quarantine was bearable, food tasted great at the start and they provided juice with the meals. The meals were catered by the hotel itself.
As the days went by, and the same type of meals were served, we requested for a change of meals and they were happy to make the change at no additional cost. Whenever we got bored and sick of the food, room service was affordable enough for us although they didn’t have hot chocolate. That was quite a disappointment.
But all in all, we were out of quarantine in 4.5 days after the swab test results were proven negative to continue with our grieve and to settle family matters.
The Singapore experience is always a bit more daunting perhaps, as with everything in Singapore. From the moment the ferry longsides, you have officers waiting for you to put you in organised lines checking on your documents.
And then a different group of officers stop to check you once again as you enter the immigration office area to direct you to the queue you’re supposed to head to. And since all of us paid a visit to the hospital whilst we were in Batam (which I lost my cool but that’s for another story), we were redirected to a different line where the Senior Officer took charge of us.
We were then issued a letter informing us that we have been placed on 14 days SHN. We first received this via email and then, a confirmation once again plus information on the fact that we have to pay SGD$2,000 for the SHN plus for the swab test.
(You can appeal for a waiver but that’s dependent on ICA whether or not they wish to approve your application/appeal for a waiver. My sister and mother were given whilst I wasn’t. So, it’s currently up for a second round of appeal. Doesn’t seem like we have much of a compassion or understanding that I was forced to travel because my father passed away overseas, and not because I wanted to frolic. So, that’s an added depression to my list of growing depressing things happening to me.)
Once the information was relayed, we were redirected to an area ‘guarded’ by Certis Cisco officers who were there to ensure we didn’t just run off and disappear or they’d have a bigger problem on their hands, and us, a bigger issue with the law.
Check-in at was at Mercure Bugis Hotel and once a few signatures were penned, we were immediately ushered to our rooms. The rooms, were ¼ smaller than the one we had in Batam and the toilet, no bidet. So, private business requires a bit of improvisation. And of, laundry is SGD$20 for 4 pieces of clothing, any clothing. And our swab test would only be done closer to the date of our check-out.
Because I was expecting the meals to be quite a bore, I came prepared with 7 cup noodles and some snacks to last throughout the 14 days SHN. Or so I thought..
If Harris Hotel served us a variety and provided us with the ability to request for a change, Singapore as how it is, is as restrictive as it sounds. No changes allowed because the meals are catered by a caterer since the hotel does not have a Halal restaurant.
So, by the 3rd day of SHN, I realised I was growing into depression. Depressed from the grief, from the understanding that it’s 14 days long and the fact that I’m going to have to be forced to continue to eat rice and some form of curry dishes every single day.
I’m not sure what the caterer’s understanding of Halal food is but it certainly isn’t curry alone because Halal dishes can be everything and anything else besides curry. So, thank god we had wonderful friends and family members who kept delivering food to us every few days to keep us sane.
When the day for our swab test came, we were individually ushered down to the 7th floor for a poolside swab. Organised as always, our IDs checked by the administrative staff, of whom I almost got angry at since I almost would have definitely been turned away as she mistook me for the other client behind me who had a flu.
The swab was different compared to the one we had in Batam. We were given an NP swab using an NP swab stick. And once we were done, we were ushered back to the room immediately, locked in once again.
The swab test result were updated to us via the hotel concierge three days later and we still had to remain in the room till the end of the SHN before we could leave.
So, there you go, the difference and similarities between the two Swab Tests and Quarantine.
Both equally depressing, but if I had to compare, I’d prefer Indonesia’s quarantine procedure instead of Singapore, but I’d choose Singapore’s managing of the swab test infection control measure.