Today the social media feeds are flooded with people celebrating freedom after the end of circuit breaker phase one was announced in Singapore last night. But, the feeling is bittersweet for me. While I am looking forward to some aspects of the gradual re-opening, I’m not quite ready for things to return to normal. I was just beginning to enjoy my new hermit-style lifestyle. Plus, after a fair bit of internet shopping, I was counting on a little more time stuck indoors to save money. As yet, I still haven’t the heart to tell my cats I will be spending less time at home.
What is Circuit Breaker?
As I shared in an earlier blog post, circuit breaker is the term we use in Singapore to describe our lockdown in response to COVID19. Since 7 April, we have experienced one of the strictest lockdowns in the world in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Lockdown measures have required individuals to stay at home at all times, with permission to only leave the house for outdoor exercise or essential shopping. Social visits to other households have been prohibited as has loitering in public places. All non-essential shops and services, such as cafe’s, restaurants and retail shops, have been closed. Everyone must work from home where possible.
Despite the strict measures, the community here has generally been supportive of the approach. Phase one of the circuit breaker has been hugely successful – virus numbers in the community are way down and hospitals are successfully managing their caseload. A few penalties have been doled out along the way, with individuals and/or companies caught flouting the rules severely reprimanded (as it should be). The hospitality and retail sectors have also suffered severe economic losses. But, nonetheless, I think we can all agree we feel much safer in Singapore compared to other places in the world.
A New Way of Life
Like any change, it took a while for me to adapt to the strict phase one requirement. I felt like a prisoner in my own home at first! But, as the weeks have rolled on, there are only a couple of things I sorely miss. I miss going out for massages (especially reflexology, which is a Chinese foot massage), as well as the excitement of travelling. In pre-COVID19 life, even when I wasn’t travelling I was always in the midst of planning a new adventure! I also miss catching up with friends in person or chilling out at a cafe and people-watching.
But that aside, my new lifestyle is much better. I feel more energised because I get more sleep! Since I am no longer juggling various commitments with commuting to work/college, I manage to clock 8-9 hours sleep a night and I feel fantastic. With the time I save on commuting, I can also manage regular 20-minute workouts before breakfast using my exercise ball, and I walk for 60-90 minutes along Kallang River each evening before dinner.
All this energy has made me more productive professionally and personally. It helps that I have the ultimate workspace, with my vintage pin-leg desk set up nicely by the window.
Circuit Breaker Phase 2 Starts Midnight 18 June
Late yesterday, 15 June it was announced that phase one of the circuit breaker in Singapore would end this Thursday at midnight. You could say it was a shock announcement!! Most people expected the lockdown period to last longer – at least until mid-July or even through August. Shortly after this bombshell dropped, WhatsApp messages and Facebook posts were going off like crazy all around the island.
So, what does this new-found freedom mean? Under this next phase of the Singapore circuit breaker, many restrictions will be eased. Restaurants and cafes can open for dine-in, health and beauty services including massage and hair salons will resume business, and households can now welcome up to five guests at a time. The below infographic from Mothership summarises what will be allowed. Fitness fanatics are especially enthused they can now sweat it out at the gym again.
Capacity limits for shopping malls and supermarkets will still be in place, and entertainment venues like cinemas, the theatre and museums, will not yet open. Religious mass-worship is also not allowed. This phase two will become our new normal for the indefinite future, in which wearing a face mask and working from home remains the default.
Excited But Not Excited
When I first heard the news I was surprised more than anything. It took me a few minutes to realise that my new hermit-like existence was slowly coming to an end. I am excited at the prospect of returning to normal because I want the economy to thrive again, I feel a little sad on a personal level.
A return to normalcy means a return to social pressure. In pre-COVID19 life, a weekend spent at home was accompanied by a guilty conscious. I felt under pressure (although mostly self-imposed) to go out and do something all the time. Last year was simply a blur of weekends in Thailand, forgetful cinema flicks, and too much eating and drinking out – the thought alone just makes me bloated. This lockdown has helped me realise the meaninglessness of a self-indulgent life.
I have been enjoying a mini-renaissance at home during the circuit breaker. My days are packed, from morning till night, with learning and personal development. I am busy at work, I am ploughing my way through the bookcase, I am sewing dresses, and writing short stories, and experimenting in the kitchen (I make the best pancakes with melted cheese!). There is never a dull moment.
I’ve also been working more on my design and video editing skills. Last month I spent nearly fifty-hours illustrating a pre-war conservation house to commemorate Singapore frontline workers.
I would be lying if I said I was not secretly gleeful by the anticipated return of nationalism and old-fashioned norms that this pandemic seems to promise. But more on that another time.
For those of us who managed to keep our jobs, this lockdown also promised to be a great way to save money. The problem is, I haven’t saved any money yet. While I haven’t been splurging on travel, I have been busy online shopping – all these newfound hobbies don’t pay for themselves! A few recent purchases include an exercise ball, new computer, dozens of fabrics, online courses, and even some cookware. I was counting on another month indoors (at least) to start seeing a return on these investments… despite the shock from my last electricity bill!
However, if I am honest with myself, the most painful thing right now is knowing I failed in a simple promise I made to myself. At the start of this circuit breaker, I had said to myself that I must get around to cleaning the bathroom and doing the ironing. I figured if I was stuck at home, there would be no excuse for avoiding housework. Well, in the past two months I did manage to clean half the bathroom (I scrubbed the shower floor). But I seem incapable of finishing the job. My cat Misty keeps condemning me for the pile of clothing that sits on the ironing board. If only the lockdown had helped me to appreciate that cleanliness is next to Godliness. Oh well, there is always the second wave for that. Or, I suppose I could splash out on a cleaning service, which is now permitted under the Singapore circuit breaker phase two.
Irrespective of all this, I am excited at the prospect of going out to celebrate the end of circuit breaker phase one! I have dinner reservations at Nonna Lina in Tanjong Pagar on Friday, and over the weekend I will catch up with friends, enjoy a traditional Chinese massage, and squeeze in a swim at the pool. There will even be a cake.
To all my fellow Singapore dwellers – enjoy your newfound freedom, but don’t overindulge!