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A Letter from Singapore: We Survived Virus Time and You Will, Too

Greetings from the future! I’m writing from Singapore. If you’re reading this in the evening, it’s already tomorrow here (we’re 12 hours ahead of the East Coast.) We’re also about two months ahead of the United States in Virus Time.

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The first case of the Covid-19 arrived in Singapore January 23. Very quickly, we experienced what everyone in the States is only now becoming familiar with. Event cancellations. Travel restrictions. Home quarantines.

The government mandated hand sanitizer be available at all public locations and that temperature checks be instituted before entering public buildings. Even our taxi drivers insisted our hands be squirted with sanitizer before we could buckle up. One driver informed us we could only ride with the windows down because it was believed the hot, humid air helped kill the virus faster than air conditioned air.

My kids’ sporting events were canceled and many after school activities were paused as well. Field trips were first postponed, then cancelled. Vacation plans were in shambles. The kids continued to have school, but now had to come to class with a signed and dated slip of paper where I recorded their temperature.

It was weird. It was disconcerting. It was worrying.

We saw attendance at our favorite restaurants plunge. We followed the daily announcements of new cases with a mixture of dread and disbelief. We made sure we had enough canned goods and yes, toilet paper, to last us two weeks in case we received Stay At Home orders.

I’m here to report that two months later, these changes to our daily life, these sacrifices and thoughtful policies, have worked. The virus is mostly under control here. Life continues in its new, altered way, and we’ve grown used to it. We have our temperature taken multiple times a day as we enter the mall, the library, school, and work.

We have developed a solid habit of washing hands frequently and coughing into our elbow. We’ve cancelled all travel for the foreseeable future. And we’re okay. We work. The kids learn and they play. There’s food in the grocery stores. Business and industry are up and running. We get together with friends, but we don’t hug or kiss cheeks. We laugh about the awkwardness and then we shrug it off.

If there’s a silver lining to this terrible time, it’s that Covid-19 is a global disaster. We see other nations fighting it and we learn from their mistakes and grow from their successes. We feel their pain and they feel ours.

Two months into Virus Time here in Singapore, I can report that we’re not in the clear yet, but that life is mostly normal. There is a way to live with this virus. I know it looks bad, but we’ll get through this together.

Now go wash your hands.

Tammar Stein is the award-winning author of young adult and middle-grade novels. Her latest novel, Beni’s War, will be published in November. She lives in Singapore with her family. You can visit her at

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