I was issued a 5-day Quarantine Order at a hotel and here’s my experience

by Natalie Lim

This week, our writer tells her 5-day Quarantine Order experience. Here’s a complete breakdown of the process, food served and happenings.

Like how Thanos snapped his fingers and wiped out half of the universe, just like that, we’re suddenly back to Circuit Breaker 2.0. It’s safe to say that we all saw this coming. The spike in COVID-19 cases was already prophesied after the announcement of travel bubbles — it was all too good to be true.

Some of us were blessed enough to carry on with our daily lives albeit Working From Home (WFH), while some were issued with Stay Home Notices (SHN). For the less fortunate (A.K.A me), we had to serve Quarantine Orders (QO). How did all of this happen?

It was the first of May and out of the blue, my very unromantic boyfriend (J) decided that we should go on a movie date.

“Let’s watch Wrath of Men,” he said.

These were the five words that sent me swooning because he finally took the initiative to ask me out on a date. And these were also the five words that sent both of us into a five-day quarantine. 555.

On the morning of the 9th of May, we then received a fateful call from the Ministry of Health (MOH), stating that we were to serve a QO as apparently, a person seated near our proximity at the theatres was tested COVID-19 positive. Since symptoms for the Coronavirus takes 14 days to appear, we were on the 9th-day mark and hence, only had to serve the Quarantine Order till the 14th of May.

It is unclear as to why we weren’t served SHN instead, but I reckon it was due to the rising amount of cases, hence the government’s attempt in containing people that came to close contact with patients. Or, perhaps J and I are in households with shared bathrooms. Since COVID-19 is spread through liquid particles, people on SHN are encouraged to use a dedicated toilet.

But whatever it was, the personnel on the phone instructed us to self-quarantine in our rooms and to pack our bags for the trip. It was stated that from anytime now till tomorrow morning, Certis Cisco personnel would come by our houses and escort us to our quarantine facilities.

Here’s where the fun begins.

My Quarantine Order experience

9th May 2021

12PM. J calls me. “Where got so suay (unlucky) one?” J laments. In all honesty, we were in disbelief and thought that this could be a prank/scam. But after several calls to MOH’s main hotline, we confirmed that it was true.

1PM. I’ve packed my bags with the essentials. Toiletries, skincare, two sets of casual wear and three sets of sleeping clothes. I have no idea what I’d need the casual wear for since I’ll be quarantined in a room. But just in case. I also packed in my Nintendo Switch. If Animal Crossing got me through the first Circuit Breaker, this 5-day Quarantine Order would be a breeze with it. 

3PM. J and I are on FaceTime. We actually have a staycation date for the 17th of May. J thinks that this is a pre-staycay. He is laughing and saying that it’s a free vacation at a hotel with free food. I hate to be a Debbie Downer but I warn him that we could be sent to a Government Quarantine Facility or a school dormitory instead. Through the video call, I see J processing this bit of information. He looks disappointed but says, “I hope they’ll send us to MBS.”

6PM. I am getting restless and hungry. We have not received any calls or updates and the waiting for pickup has made me anxious. This means that I can’t be in deep sleep and I’m afraid that if I were to order food, Cisco may come before it arrives and I’d have to forfeit it. I debate with myself for a lil’ while and decide to order some burritos. Girl gotta treat herself before she’s banished from the world.

9PM. We are still waiting. J is happy at the fact that he does not need to work for a week. I am a writer and work is anywhere I want it to be. In an alternate universe, I’d end this article with “This staycation was sponsored by the Government”. 

9.30PM. My anxiety gets the better of me and I decide to call MOH for an update. The staff tells me that the cutoff time for pickups is at 10.30PM. If we’re not transported by then, it’ll be from early morning tomorrow till noon. I want to ask her if by “early morning” she meant 6am, but I’m afraid of annoying her so I hold back.

12AM. I managed to sleep but was awoken by a call from MOH. The staff asks for my temperature and instructs me to download a tracing app. The app must be left in the background for location tracking. The link to the app would be sent to me via SMS and I was to report my temperature there thrice a day till the end of the Quarantine Order. Failure to do so would result in the enforcer’s calls and visitation. 

Day One, 10th May 2021

7AM. I’m washed up and ready to go. I had a nightmare of getting kidnapped and being thrown into a van. My stomach feels funny but I’m not sure if it’s hunger or anxiety. 

Quarantine Order 1
She has no idea that I’ll be leaving her.

10.30AM. I receive a call from a Cisco personnel, asking me to get ready in 30 minutes. I plop myself down on the living room sofa and spend the last few moments at home with my dog, Hazel. I am the one with separation anxiety. 

11.15AM. I receive another call to head down. I am greeted by a 10-seater van and a Certis Cisco personnel in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) ushered me in. Besides him, there’s another staff at the seat in front of me and a driver in the van. I sign some documents which state that my Quarantine Order is to start from the 10th of May till the 14th. I am to be located at Peninsular Excelsior Hotel, right beside Funan Mall. Part of me feels relieved that I’ll be stationed at a hotel, but I mostly feel like George Sanderson from Monster Inc. who accidentally touched a child’s sock. I text J to tell him that my adventure had started. He is still patiently waiting for his turn.

12.30PM I am still in the van. I thought that we would head to the hotel straight away, but we picked up other close-contact victims on the way. 3 other people joined me on my ride. I wonder if we were all in the same theatre. I wonder if the cars that passed us by looked at us and went, “This girl got COVID.”

2.30PM. We reach the hotel and its entrance was barricaded like a murder scene. We’re guided through a narrow pathway for check-in. There’s a bag check and the staff questions if I brought in any prohibited items such as sharp objects, drugs or cigarettes. He then cheekily asks if I have an AK47 hidden somewhere. I’m confused. 

“Haha kidding la. Enjoy your stay.” 

Is that boredom or is that flirting?

3PM. I have settled into my hotel room. I’m given a view of the city and there’s even a bathtub. Nubbad, but the room is awfully chilly despite my attempts at raising the temperature. I have sensitive dry skin, so thank god I brought lots of facial masks. I want to come out of this quarantine lookin’ like a dime plus 99. Damn. I forgot to pack in lotion.

4PM. J is sent to the same hotel and we’re located on the same level — we’re neighbours! I text my best friend in excitement. 

Me: Do you think that this is some sort of elaborate plan to propose to me? Like how the bride and groom cannot see each other before they get married.

S: Aiyah you dream on la, J where got so smart and romantic one.

5.30PM. I hear a knock on my door. I open the door and realise that they’ve barricaded my entrance with two chairs. On top of the chair sits a bento box. I decide to include food reviews in my Quarantine Order article.

Quarantine Order 2

I’m not going to lie — I had the assumption that I’d be eating food prepared by the hotel’s management. However, I soon realise that the meals are catered by the government. I’m not a food critic and am always grateful for what I have. But the fried fish in black pepper sauce was already cold to touch and tough to chew. The long beans were dry and I struggled to swallow them. Though I’m Asian, I’ve never been a fan of rice and prefer eating noodles or bread. From this bento, I knew that I’ll be struggling with my meals for the next few days. Though we’re allowed to order food delivery, I made a pact not to do so unless completely necessary.

7PM. I receive a call from the hotel’s receptionist. I’m due for a swab test tomorrow morning! I’m to be prepared by 9AM and the staff will escort me to a private vehicle. I’ve not done a swab test before and I’m excited. I’ve heard some of my friends complain that it’s painful, while some others took it like a champ. I want to be a champ. 

10PM. The day has worn me out and I’m tired. The room is still icy cold and the duvets aren’t helping much. I wish I brought socks. As an introvert and a gamer, I’m used to being confined in a room and being alone. But I do miss my dog. I look through my phone’s album for pictures of her and fall asleep.

Day 2, 11th May 2021

Quarantine Order 3

8AM. My doorbell rings and I frantically put on my mask to open the door in my PJs. I thought that the swab test team came early, but it was just breakfast at the doorstep. Again, the mysterious food bringer is nowhere to be found. It’s too early for me to eat what seems to be an attempt at fried rice, so I take a bite out of the yam cake and finish the two dubious-looking balls. They were fishballs, by the way. The hardest balls I’ve had in my entire life. J video calls me and he’s swigging down a bottle of Pepsi he ordered from Grabfood. I think that having Pepsi for breakfast is blasphemy.

9.15AM. A man in PPE has come to collect me. We wait for the elevator. 

Man in PPE: You are the girl from yesterday right?

Me: Um. Yes. 

Man in PPE: Do you remember me? I’m the guy who said AK47.

Me: Uhhh, yes. I remember you now. *laughs sheepishly*

AK47 guy: Haha I also remember you. 

*awkward silence fills up the elevator*

Quarantine Order 4

9.30AM. I am in the vehicle. The driver is dressed in PPE as well. The windows are winded down to prevent air containment. I’m seated where the sun shines and it’s getting really warm. J is in the car in front of us. I would wave but I feel like a VIP on a secret mission. Must not reveal my identity. 

10.30AM. We arrive at the swab test location and were told to form a queue. J is 1 metre away from me but we do not speak. There’s another queue at the side of the room but it’s like we’re on the express lane — our queue takes priority. I wish this was Universal Studios Singapore. I go to a counter and the lady asks if I’ve any COVID-19 related symptoms such as cough, runny nose, breathing difficulties or fever. I do an identity verification and proceed to the swab test area. J is still stuck at the counter and he seems stressed. For a guy that rarely shows his emotions, this is a bad sign. I proceed to the swab test area where I sat on a plastic chair. I can’t see the tester’s face due to their PPE but from his eyes, he looks like someone of my age.

Tester: Are you ready? 

Me: Will it be painful?

Tester: I’ll be sticking this up each of your nostrils for 10 seconds. It will feel uncomfortable but do not jerk. I’ll do it the best I can.

The swab enters my left nostril first and my eyes immediately water. It is not painful, but it feels like water went up to my nose and I can’t get it out. My nose feels violated. After the test, I walk out of the room to see J isolated at a corner. Oh no. What’s going on? I’m led back to my vehicle and I check my phone. Apparently, J told the counter receptionist that he’s having a mild cough. He’s to be sent to NUH for a medical assessment and has to relocate to another facility. He is angry and blames himself for talking too much. I blame it on the Pepsi. 

2PM. I’m back at the hotel and I’m writing an article on special places to propose in Singapore. J, if you’re reading this, I do not allow local proposals. It must be in Japan, in the middle of Dotonbori. My hotel phone rings and the receptionist asks if I need any “top-ups”. I say that I need more toothpaste.

Quarantine Order 5

2.30PM. The doorbell rings and instead of toothpaste, I see a stack of towels and lunch. I don’t know what to do with the extra towels. I’ll probably build a fort since I’m on a Quarantine Order. Lunch is tandoori chicken with sour cream, stewed cabbage and samosas. The chicken is tender but doesn’t go too well with the sour cream. The samosas are loaded with cumin and I just could not.

6PM. I’ve stopped working and J has been relocated to Village Hotel Changi. It’s a Long Distance Relationship at this point. He complains that he’s been placed on the 3rd floor and has nothing to view. I play Animal Crossing till dinner comes. No one rang my doorbell this time and I have to settle for cold food.

Quarantine Order 6
Dinner: Sweet & sour prawns and cabbage. At least there are fruits provided and it was a sweet gesture to provide dates for the Muslims to break fast.

7.30PM. I almost forget to submit my temperature report. For those who are curious, here’s what it looks like.

Quarantine Order 7
My selfie is for visual purposes. Please do not do funny faces.

12AM. J and I just completed the movie “Outlanders” on Disney+’s groupwatch. He told me that it’s a happy movie but it ended up being morbidly sad. My pillows are wet as I’m an easy crier. I sleep on my tears.

Day 3, 12th May 2021

Quarantine Order 8

8.30AM. There’s bread and scrambled eggs for breakfast! The bread is stale and the eggs are powdery, but I’m glad that I don’t have to eat a bucket of rice for breakfast. The sausages have a smooth texture but taste like plastic. I make do with just the bread and eggs and start working.

Quarantine Order 9

12.05PM. My swab test results are out and I’m not a carrier. I tell my family and they’re relieved that they don’t have to go on a government-sponsored staycation. However, my friends are slightly bummed out that they still have to work.

Quarantine Order 10
Lunch is a western meal of chicken chop, sautéed vegetables and a hash brown. The chicken is dry and tough as hell, but the accompanying gravy made it edible. The combination of vegetables didn’t make sense but I love my greens. And hey, you can never go wrong with hash browns. 

3PM. J video calls me and he’s showing me his window view. He whines that he’s bored and “stuck in a sh*thole with nothing to do”. I’m laughing at him when the camera flashes to what seems like a black moving spot on the pavement.

J: B, look! Got wild chickens.

Me: Where got chicken?

J: There! *points with the excitement of a three-year-old*. If the chickens let me out, I’ll fry them into delicious KFC.

I question my boyfriend’s sanity for a moment before heading back to work.

6PM. I did something terrible. I ordered $50 worth of skincare products from Watsons because my skin is screaming for help. The air is so dry and the windows are locked so I can’t get any fresh air. I could have gotten away with just lotion but if I’m spending $7 on delivery, I might as well get a bath scrub, hair mask and eye masks too. I get sad sometimes because I do skincare but my skin doesn’t care.

6.30PM. Dinner has arrived and this deserves a solid 7/10. It may not look like much but under the curry lies a fried batang fish, already soaked in the rich sauce. The xiao bai cai is forgettable and I do not understand the chef’s obsession with the frozen carrot and peas. But there’s fruit cake provided and I love dessert.

8.11PM. My handphone rings and it’s a call from a MOH personnel. I’ve forgotten to submit my report. She requests a video call and I have to take my temperature in front of her. This brings me back to primary school days where we had to go through temperature exercises with our teachers because of SARS. Sorry, cher

1AM. J and I watch another Disney movie. He wolfs down a bag of Twisties. The man never learns his lesson. We go to bed and I hope he lives to fight another day.

Day 4, 13th May 2021

9AM. I wake up feeling extremely lethargic. I’m not sure if it’s due to the fact that I’ve been in an air-conditioned room for too long or, because my period has come. Luckily, I brought sanitary pads. I try to work, but I feel like crying because the period cramps hurt. The Quarantine Order seems extra difficult and the world is grey today.

There are fried noodles for breakfast and the cumin samosas and hard balls are back. There’s also a random hard-boiled egg. I don’t have the appetite to eat.

2PM. I receive another call from the hotel’s receptionist. She tells me that I’ve another swab test scheduled for tomorrow. I’m confused and tell her that I’ve just done one yesterday. Was there something wrong with my results? She does not know. I put down the phone and cry out of frustration.

Lunch consists of 3 boiled prawns, stewed cabbage and the Michelin star frozen vegetables. For dessert, there’s Jurassic Park jello. 100 points for you if you get the reference.

5PM. I’ve been tagged. A man in PPE came to my room to install a location tracking device and an unremovable wristband. If I move too far away from the device, MOH will be alerted. All that I’m missing is an orange jumpsuit. As he sets up the machine, we make small talk.

Me: Isn’t the location app enough, and shouldn’t this be done on Day 1 of the Quarantine Order?

Tagging man: You’re right. It should have been. But there are just too many cases and we’re overwhelmed. You’re my 20th person for today and I’ve 50 more to go. The app is the first line of defense, followed by this and lastly, the hotel’s CCTV. We need to be strict as apparently, some people get quarantined and become lawyers. 

*makes quotation marks in the air* “Human rights”.

I feel guilty for even asking, but I continue.

Me: Where are you from?

Tagging man: I’m from Malaysia, actually. I haven’t seen my family for a year now. I’m stuck here till god knows when. I hope the situation gets better soon.

He spots my Nintendo Switch and we talk about games for a while. When he leaves, I’m left with a wristband and a heavy heart.

8PM. Dinner is served. Here, we have herbal chicken and more xiao bai cai. I still can’t wrap my head around the frozen vegetables. They serve little purpose and taste. My friends have been egging me to order food delivery. I am a strong independent woman and I refuse to cave in. At least not today. I take out the chicken and mix a portion of rice into the broth — my own rendition of porridge. I turn in early due to fatigue.

Day 5, 14th May 2021

9AM. I can almost smell freedom. I’ve one day left and I can’t wait to be released. The period cramps have ceased and I feel a little better.

For breakfast, we have chwee kueh, a yam cake and red bean buns. I’ve heard that pink-coloured buns are for longevity. I hope that it does not represent the lengthening of my stay.

3.30PM. I’ve just completed another swab test and this time, it was painful. It feels like someone gave me a hard jab on my nose. I was worried for nothing as it’s the standard operating procedure for close-contact persons to be tested again before the Quarantine Order ends. I wish that the hotel receptionist was more informed, it could have saved me some tears. Channel News Asia just reported that group sizes will be down from 5 to 2 pax and dining-in is suspended. I foresee another Circuit Breaker but I don’t want to jinx my actual staycation on the 17th.

5.30PM. J calls me. There are wild chickens outside of his hotel again. 

J: Look. I never lie. Got pok pok keh outside.

Me: What are the chickens doing?

J: Waiting to get fried.

I think he needs help.

9PM. It’ll be my last dinner here and I will not let it end on a bad note. I ordered Mcdonald’s. Burgers and fries have never tasted so good.

5-day Quarantine Order diary

15th May 2021

7.30AM. Today will be a good day. I’m informed that I’ll be released at 12PM and my second swab test result is back. I’m tested Negative. I take a shower and pack up my things with enthusiasm. 

A commemorative photo of my five-day Quarantine Order.

12.15PM. I am escorted out of my room to the receptionist area, where I was made to sign more documents and also do a survey. Then, I proceeded to another counter to have my wristband removed.

Staff: This is it. The cut of freedom. 

Me: Yes. Yes, it is. 

Staff: *cuts off the wristband*

Me: Is this it? Am I free to go now?

Staff: Please go. Go now. And never come back! 

I walk out of Peninsular Excelsior Hotel and feel the sun on my face. I thank the staff and security for taking care of me, bid goodbye to the hotel, the Quarantine Order, and the AK47 man that’s missing in action. 

For anyone that’s to serve a Quarantine Order, I hope that this article provides you with the comfort and information that you need. It has been an exciting yet frightening experience that I never want to go through again, but fate is not in my hands. It may feel frustrating at times, but I do hope you’ll remember that everyone is doing their part the best they can, and a little patience and understanding goes a long way. In the meantime, stay safe and be considerate!

Signing off,

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I leave the office at 6PM on the . to rush home and play games. My boss has no control over me!!

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