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The time we lost to the pandemic

Remembering all our elders who had to endure isolation, loneliness and boredom during the nursing home lockdowns, and all the time we lost with our loved ones.

Today is the first anniversary of my granddad's passing. In the early years of my life, I spent most of my time at my grandparents’ flat and we did all sorts of things together, from eating MacDonald’s hot-cakes to reading Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. For the last year of his life, we could only wave at each other from a distance, separated by a barricade at a nursing home, or meet briefly in hospital wards.

My granddad shuttled in and out of hospitals in 2019, as it became increasingly clear that we couldn’t provide the round-the-clock care he needed as bones, muscles, organs faltered with age. He moved from a community hospital into a nursing home in 2020, in the earlier months of the Covid-19 pandemic that would define and limit our interactions with him for the rest of his life.

Much has been lost during the pandemic. Migrant workers lost their freedom — hundreds of thousands are still confined to their dormitories when not at work, forcibly segregated from the rest of the population. Families have lost income, with the worst hitting the poorest among us. Children lost opportunities to play in groups or join in-person school activities. Many of us lost our rhythm as familiar routines were interrupted by quarantine or lockdown or fast-changing safe management measures, and with it our mental and emotional equilibrium.

There’s a lot that has been, can be, and will be said about how well or badly aspects of the pandemic have been handled, in Singapore and beyond. I’ve covered a lot of it in this newsletter itself. But this issue isn’t about scrutinising and debating policy. In this issue, I’d like to just hold space for some of the struggles that have taken place, and to acknowledge some of the things that Covid-19 took away from us.

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