Record: Home Quarantine Order As A Fully Vaccinated Person (Singapore)

One fateful evening on my way home from work, I received an SMS from the Ministry of Health (MOH) notifying me that I’d been issued a Quarantine Order (QO) as I had supposedly been exposed to a confirmed covid case 3 days ago. This, I believe, was part of the government’s ring-fencing efforts to reduce the community impact of the recent KTV cluster, which resulted in a resurgence of covid cases. The SMS didn’t include much information except to go home immediately, alert my close contacts and pack a bag in the event I need to be brought to a government quarantine facility (GQF). It also told me to await further instructions from a QO agent via a phone call.

Being the anxious person that I am, these sudden changes were highly unwelcome. It didn’t help that the MOH hotline was perpetually engaged and the FAQs on the MOH website mentioned next to nothing about the specifics of what was to come. At this point, all I knew to do was download the Homer app for whereabouts tracking and reporting purposes, and wait for someone to call me.

Homepage of the Homer app
Homer app homepage

My husband helped me purchase an ART kit that same evening and I self-administered a mildly uncomfortable swab test. Results were negative, which provided a teeny tiny bit of assurance (assuming I did it correctly).

At night, I received a call from a QO agent informing me that a swab guy would come by to do a PCR swab test, as well as a house inspector to assess the suitability of our house (I indicated my preference to complete my QO at home). She didn’t mention when these visits would take place but assured me they would typically call before coming over. End of Day 1 of QO (technically speaking, Day 4 since my possible exposure event).

Covid-19 self-test ART kit
Self-test ART kit

Day 5. In the midst of enjoying lunch with my husband, blissfully unaware of what was to come, our doorbell rang. The swab guy, decked out in full PPE, was standing outside our door. I had no time to mentally prepare myself for the full-insertion-in-both-nostrils PCR swab, but maybe God knows these surprise swabs are the most humane option for me as it spares me from agonizing over it in anticipation. Chatting briefly with the swab guy, he shared that he runs around doing at least 30 of these swabs a day (goodness gracious, the amount of potential exposures!). Anyway, the whole process took less than 5 minutes. He verified my identity, then did the swab. I thanked him for his service before he zipped off to his next location.

Fast-forward to Day 9. Got a call informing me that Certis Cisco officers were coming to my place in the next hour to do tagging (ie. install a tracking router and put a wristband on me). This came as quite a shock as there was no information whatsoever online or via verbal communication that I was going to have to undergo this pseudo-house arrest stint. I was not allowed to take off the wristband at any point (not even to shower or sleep) until the end of my QO. For context, I don’t even wear my wedding band to sleep, that’s how uncomfortable I feel having accessories on me while sleeping. The officer kindly suggested for me to call the MOH hotline if I had any queries as he was only following orders (but as mentioned before, the MOH hotline is always engaged). Notably, it was only during this phone call that I managed to receive confirmation that I was serving out my QO at home (no house inspector ever came and no one gave my home quarantine preference the green light). Days on end of not knowing whether or not I was going to end up in a facility was not fun.

Around 9pm, the officers arrived to do the deed. He explained that once he clipped the wristband on, it cannot be unclipped. Only when I’m in the clear with MOH can I cut off the wristband. To dispose of the router and wristband, I was instructed to call a number on the pack in which the devices were originally stored, and someone will come to pick it up (can this get anymore clandestine, lol).

My bare arm with nothing on it

My arm with a tagged wristband on it
Not free

Day 11. Yet another call from a Certis Cisco officer saying that he needed to change my tracking router and wristband due to software updates, and would be at my place within the next 30 minutes. At this juncture, I thought to myself: I have all these unknown numbers calling to tell me they need to do this and that (like asking me for my personal information, coming into my house and installing things), it never occurred to me to at least check their IDs for verification (since calling the MOH hotline was an exercise in futility).

When this officer arrived around noon, I proceeded to ask him for his ID. Shockingly, it was a temporary pass with no photo ID or name on it. I asked him why this was the case, he simply replied that he was just a temp staff. I was in mild disbelief, but really, what could I do at that point? Anyway, later in the evening, I received another Certis Cisco officer call asking me who else lives in my household. He also informed me that a swab guy will come over on the second last day of my QO to do my exit swab.

Day 12. Ring ring, guess who? A call from a Certis Cisco officer informing me that he’ll be coming to pass me some documents to sign. He also passed me a ziplock bag full of ART kits. Confusingly, I also received an SMS from MOH giving me a different directive about my exit swab. Apparently because I am fully vaccinated, I can actually leave my house to get swabbed at a regional screening centre, provided my ART result is negative the day before. Shortly after, I receive a HPB SMS confirming my appointment at a nearby centre. Talk about conflicting information – so do I wait for the swab guy to come or do I break my QO and leave the house for a swab test?

Hoping for some clarity, I browsed the FAQs on the MOH website and found that there were updates with new instructions specifically for fully vaccinated people serving their QO at home. There were new directives regarding exit swabs and mandated regular self-testing with the ART kit every 2 days (no wonder I was given a large stash, but then again, my QO was ending soon…). Seemed like the rules were ever-evolving.

Negative Covid-19 self-test ART kit result
Nope, not a pregnancy test kit

Day 13 – swab test day. Adding to the confusion, I received a call from the swab guy informing me that he was arriving in 15 minutes. When I asked him about my HPB-appointed slot at the centre, he then backtracked and said he would check with his company on this. He later called back to tell me that he wouldn’t be coming and that I should head to the centre to have my swab. Not much inter-department communication going on?

Day 14. I checked my swab test result on the TraceTogether app, it was negative! MOH sent me an SMS later in the day confirming the same result. Great, I was on the homestretch.

Homepage of the TraceTogether app showing a negative Covid-19 test result
TraceTogether app homepage

Day 15. FREEDOM at 12pm finally! The first thing I did was remove the privacy-compromising devices by snipping off the wristband and unplugging the tracking router. Glad that was over and done with. Strangely enough, there wasn’t any SMS or notification to indicate an official end to my QO. It was quite the silent liberation, but liberation nonetheless (:

My thoughts on the experience: Reflecting on the whole saga, I am very thankful I didn’t have to be transferred to a GQF and was able to serve out my QO in the comfort of my own home. That was probably the single most anxiety-provoking unknown, on top of the constant unpredictability of someone randomly showing up at our door asking me to do or give who-knows-what. It was also rather concerning that there wasn’t much communication between teams and some agents were carrying out legit but infringing tasks without proper IDs (with no way for us to verify as well), gaps that surely need addressing. With that said, we all know we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and everyone’s scrambling to keep things under control. We can only do what we can, and I think the Singapore government is already doing a fairly good job, including being open to acknowledge their lapses in processes due to the increased workload from the recent surge in cases. Despite the moments of worry and frustration in this process, I truly am grateful to all these silent frontliners who put themselves in harm’s way everyday, going from household to household and risking exposure to do their jobs, just so the rest of us can have some semblance of normalcy. Thank you, your efforts are recognized and appreciated ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s