FOURTEEN days – 336 hours or 20,160 minutes – stuck in one room. Welcome to Hotel Quarantine.
And don’t worry about the facilities – you won’t be seeing or using any of them. You can either go stir-crazy and walk the walls or prepare for Operation Room 101, like I did.
After Oliver’s wife Clare took a job in Singapore, the pair were forced to spend their first two weeks in Asia shut away in a hotel room.Credit: Getty – Contributor
When my wife, Clare, was offered a job in Singapore, we jumped at the chance of a new adventure abroad.
The caveat? Spending our first two weeks in Asia shut away in a hotel room.
Not only that, our compulsory hotel quarantine would take place over Christmas, our five-year wedding anniversary and New Year’s Eve.
If there was ever proof of the impact coronavirus has had on the travel industry, it was our flight with Singapore Airlines from Heathrow.
The couple were among just 15 passengers making the trip to Singapore from Heathrow
Looking around the departure gate, we noticed it was pretty quiet as we went to board. But when we enquired about how many passengers would be flying, we were shocked to discover there were only 15.
In fact, only six of us actually got off in Singapore, with the rest going to other destinations.
At least with almost one member of cabin crew per passenger, customer service was at a premium.
The quarantining measures begin as soon as you land at Changi Airport.
We were swiftly moved through customs and shuffled on to a bus towards our designated accommodation.
To make sure we were on the right transport, green stickers were planted on our arms and we were warned not to take them off.
Oliver and Clare were taken straight to their hotel accommodation a room on the 35th floor of the Swissotel The Stamford
Where you end up is complete pot luck.
Fortunately, we were designated a room on the 35th floor of the Swissotel The Stamford. It has a balcony overlooking the famous Marina Bay.
We had heard horror stories of people being stuck in a room without windows, so our room was a huge relief.
As for food, breakfast, lunch and dinner would be left hanging on the door handle of our room every day, delivered in takeaway containers by a never-seen worker.
With a small selection of choices available, the food was surprisingly tasty.
However, if you wanted to change things up, takeaways were allowed. Pizza and prosecco on Christmas Day was our saviour!
Airline-style meals were delivered to the door – with no cosy dinners in the hotel’s restaurant permitted
Don’t expect a turndown service. If you wanted clean sheets, you had to order some from reception and change the bed yourself.
As for any rule breaking, don’t even think about it. Singapore regulations meant we had to record our temperatures three times a day.
Our locations were tracked via a government app and we had daily phone calls from the Ministry of Manpower to make sure we were doing what we were supposed to.
On Day 11 we were finally able to walk the corridors of the hotel, get in a lift, have a coronavirus test, and return straight to the room.
Fifteen minutes of freedom had never felt so sweet, even though we’d had a cotton bud stuck up each nostril.
Singapore is taking any breaking of the rules very, very seriously.
Nibbles and alcoholic drinks helped to pass the time
Only a couple of weeks ago, a Brit was charged for breaking quarantine by allegedly leaving his room three times to visit his girlfriend.
He faces a S$10,000 (£5,500) fine and up to six months’ jail.
So how do you pass the time locked away in a room?
Card game Uno, board games and plenty of Netflix ebbed away the hours, although we did burn through the entire nine episodes of hit period drama Bridgerton in just two days.
Following Joe Wicks’ online workout sessions helped shift some of the quarantine weight, while pacing the steps of our room became something of a habit.
If you don’t keep yourself occupied, then the boredom can certainly take its toll mentally.
The days initially seemed endless, but once we were more than halfway through, there was light at the end of the tunnel.
Clare enjoying the weather on the hotel room’s balcony
Even more incredible, two weeks went by without an argument between us, which wasn’t bad for being in such close proximity 24/7.
It’s not the way we would choose to spend S$2000 (£1,100) each, but luckily Clare’s employer picked up the bill.
It may appear draconian, but the measures have meant life in Singapore is almost back to normal. The government acted quickly to close its borders last year.
Just 29 people have died from coronavirus in the country since the pandemic hit.
Lockdown is a long-distant memory; people are back in their offices and, apart from wearing masks everywhere, normality is returning.
Of course, whether the UK government can implement the same impressive and effective measures is another thing.
Clare and Oliver even had to celebrate Christmas in the hotel room
By July last year, more than half of the 67,000 hotel rooms in Singapore were being used for quarantine or self-isolation.
With the UK government looking to enforce a similar regime, our experience has proved it is a mammoth logistical effort to pull off.
But if they do, think yourself lucky, you will only face ten days – that’s 240 hours or 14,400 minutes!
DETOX, DON’T RELY ON WIFI
LLOYD FIGGINS, chairman of the Travel Risk & Incident Prevention Group, gives his tips on how to survive a hotel quarantine:
- Create a routine: This will help pass time and reduce stress. Go to bed and get up at the usual time.
- Exercise: It will help your physical and mental health.
- Detox: Most quarantine hotels ban smoking. Booze may be scarce.
- Connect: Let friends and family know your room number, so they can call you. And message them.
- Take physical books: Don’t rely on wifi to download them on Kindle.
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