“My Son’s Classmate Is Covid-19 Positive!”

A familiar number buzzed on my handphone screen.

I picked it up thinking my son, Issac, had forgotten to submit some of his homework. Instead of a familiar voice, it was someone sounding very official, “Hello Madam Lee, I am the School Administrative Manager, I would like to check in with you and your son Isaac. How has Isaac been so far? Is he well while at home? As you may have heard from the news, one of our school boys from ACS Junior has tested positive for Covid-19. He happens to be a classmate of your son, Isaac. So we will be asking you and your family to be placed on mandatory quarantine.

The quarantine will start immediately. An ambulance service has been activated by MOH and they will be coming over to your place. They will be in touch with you shortly.

I felt my heart drop to my stomach.

As soon as I recovered my senses, another phone call came in. This time, it was from MOH services.

“Hi Ma’am, we will be dispatching an ambulance to your place, you will be taken to NCID for a PCR test. Upon the completion of the test, you will be escorted to Shangri-La Hotel” Based on the records that we have, the last contact your son had with his classmates was five days ago so we have to quarantine you and your family for a remaining sixteen days starting from today. The mandatory quarantine order is twenty one days, so the order will end on June 6 2021.”

Oh, my goodness, what a lot to take in!!” Within half an hour, our entire family was packed and ready to go. 

What a nerve wrecking drive to the hospital! In all my thirty five years of existence, I had never sat in an ambulance. I felt claustrophobic, and felt weak just from sitting in the ambulance when a mere ten minutes ago, I felt strong.

As expected, we were greeted by a labyrinth of white strangers. All of us were whisked away and brought to separate rooms. My husband was in room 9A, my son Isaac 9B, and myself in 9C. I could hear my son Isaac crying uncontrollably. Before I could stifle my tears, my own nostrils were violated!

A huge dripping swab was stuffed up my nostrils and as soon as I sneezed, another swab was stuffed up the other nostril.

What a bummer! I would have let out an expletive if not or the fact that I was out in public. So I had to exercise self-control. After twenty minutes, we were whisked to a hotel.

I had been to the hotel before, however, this time around, the lobby was not its usual inviting itself. There were partition boards decked the lobby. A stern officer donning a PPE suit proceeded to ask for our identification proof…in my mind I was thinking if any sane person would voluntarily sign up for this stay home order. As quickly as my identification was verified, I was escorted to a lift that was cordoned off. The barricades were pushed and we were ushered. The same officer pressed floor seventeen. There was an awkward silence when we stood in the lift. Upon entering the room, the officer firmly reminded us, “You are to remain in your room at all times” There will be no loitering even outside the lobby area. All your meals, including tea break will be served to you. You are not allowed to step out for the next sixteen days. Any non-compliance on your part will result in us reporting you to the higher authorities and you will be subject to discipline where a jail term or fine will be faced. Do you understand?” Before we could reply, the door slammed shut.

There we were all, all three of us in a free unexpected staycation – the only part – it was not voluntary. As if we had asked to be quarantined. My son Isaac, immediately went on his mobile phone and took a few photographs. He put them up on his insta story. Captioning his story was “At least I have nice white bedlinen and a soft fluffy bed to sleep on”

The first five days passed uneventfully. However, by day six, we were itching to get out and were bored out of our senses. However, we were saved by the officer who had initially checked us in – A second mandatory testing was to take place. Likewise, the same protocol was adhered to, we were whisked off by an ambulance, and had our assessment. The doctor asked us if we had experienced any covid symptoms, namely a cough, fever, loss of smell or taste in our food. We replied in the negative.

Once again our noses were violated. However, this time round, we were grateful to be out of the hotel that the swabs and testing did not bother us too much. Likewise, we waited for the same ambulance to bring us back to the hotel where we had to serve the remaining ten days of quarantine. By day fourteen once we knew our tests had come back negative, we were in a celebratory mood. We ordered some FoodPanda in – some Moroccan curry and a rich panna cotta dessert.  We slept the remaining two nights on the luxurious hotel bed linen bed and enjoyed some Netflix (In fact in our mind, we were thinking when we get back home, we want to buy the same bed from the hotel bed linen supplies company!). We also mastered some games on the phone apps. On the eve of the night when we were due to check out, we were somehow grateful that through this experience, we had taken time out for ourselves to recharge and reboot.

Most importantly, though we felt sorry for Isaac’s classmate and the others who were infected with COVID, we were feeling lucky that we had escaped from this terrible disease. Given a choice, I would never want to go through such a traumatic experience again. However, if there was a possible free staycation sponsored by the government, I would take it without any hesitation.