'We’re on the brink of a new world as the old world comes to a hard stop; Fortify and brace yourself'.
I got back 11.30pm, March 15 from Penang, Malaysia, 24 hours, before the deadline when the Singapore government issues 14-day stay-home notices to “people who enter Singapore with recent travel history to ASEAN countries, Japan, Switzerland or the United Kingdom”. (It comes into effect at 11.59pm tonight)
The recent spike in imported infections clearly made it necessary for the Singapore government to further lock its borders with its neighbours – the new order does not apply to land or sea crossing from Malaysia. Remember, up to 300,000 Malaysians enter by land to work in Singapore everyday and authorities say a different arrangement will be made. I can’t imagine what.
The airport was the busiest I’ve seen it in recent weeks. A Swiss flight departing for Zurich was packed as travellers rush home to beat their own government’s lockdowns across Europe. Immigration was full of people like me, rushing back to beat the deadline.
People like me rushing to get back in before the Stay-Home deadline
The minute the new restrictions hit the media, Singapore Airlines’ mobile app, website and call centres were jammed. I tried for two hours to change my flight. A message to PPS Connect (the frequent flyer hotline) got the response that “sorry, all our customer service representatives are currently busy”.
For Singapore, this order on travellers from ASEAN is a painful one for its tourism industry – not only have three of its biggest sources of travellers been taken away (China, South Korea and Japan), now its neighbours, the ones that could spark any early recovery, remain out-of-bounds.
But as Singapore’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vivian Balakrishnan, said in this interview, ASEAN is one hot zone because of how connected the countries are, and intra-ASEAN travel forms the majority of travel in the region. If it’s not solved within ASEAN, it cannot be solved within Singapore.
I suspect last night’s activity in Changi was the last big rush for a while. For now, we are all truly grounded as Planet Earth goes into lockdown against a virus that has proven how global and inter-connected we truly are. I know all of us are in shock as we watch the industry we love come to a crashing halt and our right to travel taken away.
We now have no choice but to stay grounded and figure out how to survive this personally and professionally.
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