Vacation To Staycation

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Changi Airport T3

MY VACATION has turned into a staycation as the Stay Home Notice (SHN) kicks in.

Our European adventure took us into Spain for a few days and we had to cut short our holiday as we managed to grab the last SIA flight out of Frankfurt. I was informed by one of the cabin staff that the next flight may only be at the end of May.

Frankfurt immigration turned away transit passengers who didn’t have Singapore passports or were not permanent or longterm residents, as part of the Covid-19 containment effort. There was a lady with an Australian passport who was not allowed to connect via SIA, and had to scramble to get onto another carrier. Those who had planned their holidays to Singapore earlier, were forced to cancel their bookings, trying their luck with the Singapore Airlines phone lines for refunds or to rebook their flight.

At the rate countries are locking down their borders, and the uncertainty surrounding the behaviour of the virus, who knows when the travel industry will take off again.

On the flight there were more crew members than passengers, so we had friendly, unharried, attentive service onboard.

SIA Frankfurt

When we landed in Singapore, we filled up the SHN form and were corralled in a corner before being processed and cleared. So far, pretty smooth.

The day of arrival is considered as Day 0.

As the Gojek driver regaled us with tales of his own adventures with Covid-19 and supermarket lines in Okinawa, and offered his hand sanitiser, the traffic flow was smooth considering it was peak hour traffic.

Today is Day 1 of the enforced staycation.

At 13:50, I receive an SMS with the usual stern phrasing about SHN and the implications of flouting the law, in Chinese and English. I am asked to turn on the location notice on my phone within an hour. Very skimpy information is provided in the SMS about how I can do this, but there’s a link!

Click on it, and I’m taken to the ICA page on SHN, also in English and Chinese. There’s a pop up message — in Chinese and English — with instructions on how to configure my phone to modify permissions, depending on the type of phone I’m using.

I click on it and am whisked over to an Apple page which is meant to show me how to turn on location settings. Except it’s in Chinese!

I look through the site and try and share my location, but the message cannot be delivered.

ICA info

I figure things out, I think, and leave it be.

At 15:39, I get another SMS. The same issues. The same alerts. The same outcome.

ICA notices

I decide to call the helpline number provided in the SMS and am informed it’s for those requiring financial assistance. I’m informed I have to call the hotline, which is engaged and the mailbox is full.

So I search the ICA website to locate a dedicated SHN number  — 63916571.

Someone answers, and curtly demands information and quietly listens to our explanation about the SMS messages. They say they will look into the matter of the SMS links. And they reinforce the message that they will send a few SMSes daily.

Till press time the SMS links are still going to the same pages.

Looks like we need to be a smarter nation to figure out what language I should be getting messages in. And the system is presuming smartness on the part of its aging population that it expects everyone to easily figure things out.

Now, what happens to those people without a smart phone?

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