Horsham's Megan Freckleton on living under Singapore's coronavirus 'circuit-breaker'

Wimmera woman Megan Freckleton with her Danish partner Jeppe Melchjorsen. The couple has lived in Singapore since July 2018 after moving there for Jeppe's job.
Wimmera woman Megan Freckleton with her Danish partner Jeppe Melchjorsen. The couple has lived in Singapore since July 2018 after moving there for Jeppe's job.

As you sat down to tea on Tuesday night, Megan Freckleton was tuning in to YouTube to listen to an address by Singapore's prime minister.

Ms Freckleton, originally from Horsham in Victoria, has lived in Singapore with her partner Jeppe since July 2018.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was detailing the latest rules for residents as part of the "COVID-19 circuit-breaker": go out alone only. Do not exercise with another. Stay home otherwise.

While many people are feeling the strain of the state of emergency lockdown measures in Victoria, Singapore's strict measures can still seem unimaginable.

But for Ms Freckleton, an occupational therapist, they have become part of everyday life.

"I have had to wear a mask at work for more than two and a half months now," she said.

"The hours of wearing just gradually increased, now I have it on more than 10 hours a day. I don't mind it that much. Wearing the mask on weekends is a new one and hard - since I have forgotten before and had to run home before being spotted."

Ms Freckleton has experienced temperature checks at work - but also at the Samsung store and at a takeaway coffee shop.

She said as in Australia, social distancing was being enforced.

"We've got standing far apart, not sitting on the seat with the cross on it, Zoom meetings - all the standard stuff," she said.

"But McDonald's closed today - that was devastating for me because health workers got free coffees."

The extended measures announced last night will last for four weeks.

"I'm a little sad because I enjoyed going on long walks around the neighbourhoods in my area. Singapore was basically a jungle way back so it's cool to explore the tiny bits left of it," Ms Freckleton said.

"Exploring was one of the fun things that was left to do. But it's not surprising."

Megan Freckleton and Jeppe Melchjorsen enjoyed exploring Singapore before circuit-breaker measures became necessary in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Megan Freckleton and Jeppe Melchjorsen enjoyed exploring Singapore before circuit-breaker measures became necessary in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Breaching the circuit-breaker orders can lead to jail-time.

While a full lockdown started in Singapore only this month, restrictions have been in place since January.

"The contact tracing was pretty intense," Ms Freckleton said. "People were put on 'stay home' notice for getting in a taxi where the driver unknowingly had the virus.

"We would read about the number of cases everyday and there was always lots of information about each case - things like gender, age, nationality, where they worked, places they visited when they had symptoms, who they caught the virus from, countries they had travelled prior, often even where they lived.

"I used to follow it quite closely but then the numbers rose sharply."

The prime minister said yesterday alone there were more than 1100 new cases detected through "aggressive testing" of both people with symptoms and those without any. Almost all the cases were in a cluster of migrant workers who lived in dormitory-style accommodation.

Ms Freckleton is unsure when she will be able to next see her family, who live in the Wimmera and across the state.

She was last in the region in March, as Australia was starting to clamp down on the virus.

"I slipped in a few days before the mandatory two-week 'stay home in Australia' came in for all travellers and got out right before Singapore started issuing 'stay home' notices for travellers from Australia," she said.

"I was very lucky.

"I have no idea when I will be able visit home next. Being realistic I might not be able to travel for the rest of the year. If I travel now while the Singaporean government doesn't advise it, I won't be covered by my health insurance if I get the virus.

"So I'm not going anywhere for now."

Despite the chaos around the world, Ms Freckleton has a sense of humour about her situation.

"For me the only change in contacting people is now I am competing for slots for video calls with friends and family because everyone is having their own virtual lives now," she said.

This story My life in Singapore during the coronavirus pandemic first appeared on The Wimmera Mail-Times.