New Zealand imposes mandatory 14-day quarantine on all international passengers

When I read that headline, I was relieved.

Let me tell you why.

Back in December sometime during Christmas, there was talk with my travel buddies to plan for another road trip. They wanted to go somewhere, anywhere, for a road trip during the first half of 2020. I tentatively agreed to the idea at first despite an anticipated busy work schedule in the first 4 months of 2020, especially April. I suggested May, but it was a little too late for some of them. We then agreed on end of March, since I had a small window of opportunity to go for a road trip, before a flurry of activity awaited in the office upon coming back from the holiday leading to the month of April.

We were discussing where to go and I suggested New Zealand, which none of them had gone to, except me. I was not overly enthusiastic about going there again, but I didn’t mind at all, since New Zealand is such a beautiful country and enjoying the sights and nature will definitely do me more good than harm by getting away from work and allows me de-stress a little before April arrives.

At that point in December, nothing was set in stone yet as we couldn’t nail down the exact dates where all of us could take time off to embark on a road trip to New Zealand. We then agreed to confirm and meet again to plan our itinerary sometime right after Chinese New Year, toward the end of January.

At that point in time, news of the Coronavirus hadn’t caught on yet (despite the fact that the earliest infections recorded could have been as early as November 2019, but no one new that it was a novel Coronavirus). It was the week leading up to Chinese New Year, when multiple news agencies picked up various reports coming from China that a mysterious new virus has been seen spreading in Hubei province. The news caught on like wildfire, with the situation in China rapidly changing on a daily basis.

I remember at that time, China moved swiftly to impose travel restrictions around the country and began imposing total lockdown in various parts of Hubei province. The authorities in China were serious. They knew something serious and bad was happening in Wuhan. The situation wasn’t any better when it took place during the Chinese New Year period, where the movement of people is at its maximum throughout China. Soon, Singapore and the surrounding region in close proximity to China received confirmation that the virus has arrived in the countries from people arriving from China.

When that happened I had the gut feeling that this was going to get worse. It was a new, unknown virus. We don’t know how easily it can spread, its mortality rate and the symptoms one can get when one is infected. A lot of unknowns were hung up in the air, as thousands get infected every day in China. I had to be the party pooper and told my friends that I no longer felt safe to travel during this period because of the developments in China. I told them to wait and see and put our trip on hold.

Fast forward roughly two months from the moment I backed out from the planned trip, and we are now seeing over 160 000 infections all around the world. Europe is the new epicentre in the virus spread and part of the second wave of infections after China successfully managed to contain the spread from within their borders. Now the number of infected worldwide is increasing again at an exponential rate. Countries all over the world are imposing travel restrictions against one another and Singapore and New Zealand are no exception. Despite the fact that Singapore has largely been successful in containing the outbreak and minimising local transmissions and that New Zealand has only detect 8 people with the virus, given that the disease is now a pandemic, it is natural that New Zealand needs to protect itself from import cases coming from places like China, South Korea, the EU and the USA. So they impose mandatory quarantine on all international travellers.

Looking back, I was right in following my gut feeling in not moving ahead with the itinerary planning and all the flight and hotel bookings bookings, as the trip would have been impossible given the travel restriction New Zealand has just imposed today on all international travellers. I feel relieved that I did not have to go through high levels of anxiety regarding my upcoming trip to New Zealand, if all our accommodations and flight arrangements been made back in January.

Coronavirus, now in more than 120 countries and counting

As of today, there are close to 160 000 infections around the world. The number of infected outside China is going to exceed those from within China. Europe is the new epicenter of the outbreak, with countries like Italy, Spain, France, and Germany reporting cases in the thousands.

More than 120 countries around the world have reported cases of the Coronavirus.

On the home front in Singapore, we are seeing a sharp increase in the number of cases, a majority of them imported from other countries. These people traveled overseas, caught the virus and got sick and tested positive upon arrival. Today, as of this writing, Singapore reported 14 new cases, the highest reported in a single day, with 9 of them coming from other countries. This is a disturbing trend, because despite putting additional resources in detecting them early on our borders and imposing travel restrictions from places where the virus is spreading rapidly, we are still seeing a rapid number of imported cases.

The tiny good news is that local transmission within the community is still small and manageable. However these imported cases are often not caught at the border as they are largely asymptomatic upon arrival. It is only laters, as they assimilated within our community upon arrival do they see symptoms related to the coronavirus. Each one of these new imported cases is a ticking time bomb, being able to spread to the local community as soon as symptoms appear. If they don’t practice social distancing, avoiding crowded places and refuse to see a doctor at the earliest onset of symptoms, then they are susceptible to spreading to a large number of people around him or her.

It feels like as the second wave of infection are arriving from Europe and the Americas, and with infections on the rise in nearby ASEAN, nations, we are struggling in keeping those numbers down. We are being bombarded with imported cases that have the potential to create a new infectious cluster in Singapore.

Europe is in a very bad state, thousands of new infections reported in total within the EU region with no end in sight. I just hope that imposing a lockdown on the entire nation like what Italy and Spain has done will start to bear fruit and see the numbers of newly infected come down. Europe hasn’t peaked yet, meaning we will see tens of thousands of new cases in the coming week. And the US is just started its upward exponential trajectory of infections.