Lockdown Around The World: Asia

Jul 13, 2020

Interviews & Inspiration | Lauranne Heres

Since I’m your resident travel writer, it was obvious that when it came to more Covid-19 info, I was going to bring you a story with international flair. As the world slowly emerges from lockdown (and parts go back in, as cases surge again in certain places), we take a look at how measures have varied immensely from one country to the other, and even regionally. Here are a few (well, more than a few) people from various countries, telling you about their experiences during these testing times. A big thanks to my Mum for helping me get people!

First instalment of 'Lockdown around the world' – Asia

Marine, 31, lives in Singapore with her husband and cat Meeko

They are in a flat with balcony near the Botanical Gardens, so they have been able to go out and exercise. The gym facilities in their building have been shut. She works for a start-up providing reusable waste-free packaging containers for restaurants and cafés. This is considered essential and she can still go out to meet vendors to provide them with merchandise. etc. but most of it is done online. Her husband works remote as alternating office days did not work well. “Going out for food or essential service is the only reason to go out. If you enter a supermarket, you check in (it’s mandatory) using an app that allows contact tracing. Migrants have been isolated in their dormitories and get regular health checks. Restaurants are open only for takeaway, though they were open before with alternate tables. Public transport is working but blocking off alternating seats. A lot of it is fenced off so you can’t sit close to people. No exercise with anyone else, including anyone from your family. Enforcement police is out and about. Also checking on cafés etc. to see if personnel is keeping their distance. There are high fines for people who don’t respect the rules.”

Student dorms are being used as quarantine areas. Flights were organised to bring back Singaporeans from oversees, followed by mandatory quarantine. The Ministry of Health check if people are self-confined by calling and you have to show that you’re home whenever they call. The Stay-at-Home notice is very strict. If you don’t respect it, you can lose your Visa, your company can lose their right to hire foreigners. They send WhatsApp messages every day, including case numbers, location of clusters, new measures etc. Lockdown is called “circuit-breaker” as this sounds less threatening. Malls are and activity centres closed. You’re not allowed to go to other people’s houses. No meetings at all. They introduced no contact delivery, care packages, funding and subsidies for self-employed, restaurants and other business owners. All schooling is done remotely and holidays have been brought forward so it did help.

Children of essential workers are in specialised day-care centres with temperature checks etc. “I don’t miss anything from before, and for example my husband who flies a lot for business is now not doing it at all which is better for the environment. It’s also nicer to have less people on the road. It’s a shame to not see people in the flesh, but as I live abroad, I’m used to keeping in touch with people digitally. And it’s nice to have my husband at home so much because usually he works late and on weekends. It’s nice to be able to bring him lunch or have a 5min chat in between meetings. Hopefully, this crisis will help people realise their waste, as they see it in their house. Companies might realise they don’t need to fly everyone out for successful meetings and people might use less packaging.”

Nathalie, 67, lives in Moscow with her husband

She’s been working from home for over 30 years. The capital has been more affected by the pandemic than other regions with over 50% of Covid-19 cases in the city. “Starting around March 20th people aged 65+ were advised to stay home. They received 2000 Rubles (around £22) at the end of March and were promised to get another 2000 Rubles at the end of April if they stayed home. The control was not really enforced.” Around mid-April, everyone except those who had to work such as doctors, drivers, policemen, was ordered to stay home. A transit pass had to be ordered online if you needed to travel, except for those who must go out to work. “One can walk to the nearest shop to buy food or medicine, take out garbage or walk your pet (within 100m of your house). Everybody must wear a mask and gloves; parks are closed and especially strict measures are taken in case a person has COVID or has had contact with a person with COVID. They must confirm they are staying at home by sending selfies several times a day to the authorities – violations are fined (around £50).

Nathalie hasn’t seen friends or family for over 2 months. “I miss spending time with my grandchildren and going swimming! My daughters-in-law staying home have lost a lot of money. I think the government has handled the situation OK, but I’m a little scared about the end of lockdown too.

Cécile is in her forties and lives in Dubai with her husband, two children and cat

They are in a 3 bedroom flat with a large terrace and the building has a pool where people can usually hang out. This is currently closed. She works for a private French school and everything has moved online for the time being. “We’re on total lockdown and you need a permit to go out. You’re only allowed out every 3 days for food shopping and you have to wear a mask and can’t exceed a certain time frame. It’s been hard to follow the rules, because of the strict time slots for going outside.” Cécile last saw her family in France in March, but she has managed to see her upstairs neighbour about once a week.

Things have been very difficult on the children, as they were not allowed outside for weeks. “We invested in bikes, a trampoline for the terrace and a cross trainer! I think the government did everything right because we locked down fairly soon, schools were closed early, and masks were made mandatory. Social distancing has been well respected.” Lockdown was partially lifted during Ramadan, allowing people to go out without permits and reopening malls and restaurants. Things are slowly getting back to normal, though schools will not reopen until September at least. “My husband and I miss going out to eat, to see a concert. The children miss their friends, their activities like dance and rugby…”