It’s 9 December 2020, and many Recaps of the year are coming out. It’s that time of the year to take stock, look back at what happened. What. Happened.
Reddit had an absolutely awesome recap post. It was, in it’s own essence, so very Reddit-like. From the title, the post, the contents, the comments. Everything was so hilariously Reddit. It included a video, animated with highlights of posts and videos taken from Reddit this year, and of a commissioned soundtrack that was so apt. The song is Never to be Forgotten Kinda Year, by Dan Bern, and boy is it apt, and beautiful. It has that touch of whimsy, brevity and uplifting spirit that only a species that has lived through 2020, could appreciate.
Like I said, it’s 9 December 2020, which is barely 22 days to the end of the Gregorian Calendar year. True, it’s an arbitrarily taken period of time, created by humans in this particular day and age, half based on astronomy, and no other species or part of the planet even cares about it, certainly not this virus. But I guess it appeals to our sentimental selves that it’s an period, a substantial period of time that we have lived through, experienced, that draws to a virtual close, and a new year beckons, a new year that supposedly is different, will be different.
It’s 9 December, and the news in Singapore is filled with the top story of the day – a confirmed infected passenger on a cruise ship that departed Singapore a few days ago and has to cut short it’s trip to return. Cruises being one of the early nightmare scenarios of the Covid-19 infection due to early spread and clusters aboard certain ships in other countries, very early on. A nightmare scenario of how easily to be cross infected, of how hard to escape from the ship, of ships being denied berthing and disembarking by many countries. A scenario that was decimated cruise travel for practically the whole year, and hasn’t really recovered.
You would think that we might be past a lot of these, but it seems not! It seems not. It seems that on the 9th of December we are still haunted by the same ghosts. Maybe slightly better, but not gone.
Lots of countries are still struggling.
But perhaps let’s go back to the start of the year, to the bright early morning of January 2020, not the first weeks, but mid to late January, where some bits of rumours and news came out of China about a new virus. I’m sure it was there in the medical, scientific, and especially infectious disease circles, before the news leaked out into the public sphere, of China investigating virus outbreak linked to wet markets (well so we thought), to bats, some coronavirus linked respiratory disorders. The measures in China slowly, slowly ramped up. There was suppressing of information, as usual, and also leaks by China citizens onto their local social media. The thing about 2020 is that the Online is so powerful now, even in China. We watched as more and more details leaked out, independently of news outlets, government announcements (both China and elsewhere), of details of seriously infected numbers in Wuhan and then other cities, of hospitals getting flooded with patients, of medical staff struggling and also getting infected, of doctors leaking the real news out, of brave citizens, of the government reacting, of other governments nearly starting to react – Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and slower – the rest of the world.
We started to get into February – the Chinese New Year period. We watched in horror as China practically shut down their New Year celebrations – easily their biggest festival of all year. Travel restrictions came into place. It was an environment of close watching and distancing from China. That was the plan.
Well alas we still had some visitors from China – both tourism, business, and social visitors. It reached our shores, in no small numbers. We scrutinised each and every case, cluster, visit, location, spread. Each was taken in shock, surprise, and utmost concern. Was it that serious? It seemed so in China, and there were many deaths as Wuhan and some other cities were overwhelmed in the number of seriously ill cases. More serious conditions than a typical influenza strain, faster spread, novel. A seemingly incredible super mix of amazingly powerful coronavirus that the regular person is trying to understand, mixed up with an horrifying inter species jump from bats to humans.
So we kinda became one node here in Singapore, due to our heavy exposure to China. Well we weren’t alone, the other countries like Japan, South Korea, Hongkong with heavy traffic with China all were hit. Mostly under control as all these countries react overwhelmingly for the short term to stem the tide. It kept things under control. Locked down kinda but at least under control. Was it still February or was it now March? It’s hard to recall as it’s all a blur of news from so many countries, so many new details in China. I suppose the news agencies can do a deeper recap.
It was likened to SARS from old. I guess it was. Quite something to live through two outbreaks. Surprisingly we had a newly opened National Centre for Infectious Disease, almost an entire half hospital specialising in this. Best stroke of luck (the timing) we could have, and probably reduced our mortality rate by quite a few. Our best laid plans, as awesome as they were, still had to adapt to the situation. Well, if you’re used to the Army and tactical situations, I guess that’s the way, but you still can’t help the common citizen throwing criticisms back at ya.
We had lots of people coming out with tracking sites, detailed data built upon the trickle of daily notices put up by the Ministry of Health. I suppose all the govt agencies went topsy turvy handling this situation. Every single person’s work changed, in one way or another, good or bad.
Italy got hit early on, real real bad, with huge numbers and deaths. It spread fast there. Sporadic numbers in Asia in the middle of the year. Some numbers in Europe but not huge. Many areas in Asia put in serious restrictions and closures to bring it down. We had a really long and extensive ‘cluster’ in our worker dormitories that took massive restructuring to clear up. LOL they tried almost everything they could think of, from country wide Circuit Breaker starting in April, to separating dorms, separating rooms, testing testing, isolating, step down care facilities, ramping up hospitals, escalating DORSCON levels, nationwide broadcast addresses, taskforce press conferences, budget handouts, employee salary support. News after news after news.
We started working from home, many many people did. Not many had to go out, except for allowed services. This was incredible. Being able to be home all day long, with my baby, saving on travel time, spending more time with her, having lunch at home. Woot. Staying safely at home while watching half the world burn.
It must’ve been hell for lots of badly affected industries – tourism, travel, airlines, restaurants, supporting industries, and others. So many people with reduced income, job losses, changes. Madness. In such large numbers as well. Four Budgets for the year, with tons of money withdrawn from past reserves. Official government measures, and also lots of interventions by Temasek, the govt-linked entity. Various sanitizer handouts, face mask handouts. So many people did so much.
Then we had a big hooha over a General Election in SG, held during the pandemic, quite unnecessarily in fact, since the situation has stablized further in end 2020 and likely into 2021 (in SG at least). Big wins for Workers Party, a GE held mostly online and over the air.
USA had tons of scandals and ridiculous news, with NYC doing terribly in Covid, and then UK getting into it, other areas in US, Spain, etc. Indonesia, Philippines, India, Russia, where hasn’t it been. It gets quite sad that many countries have huge number of deaths. The worldwide official count is now at 68 million cases and 1.5 million deaths. That’s only official positive counts, with many many more unaccounted for.
Many countries went into partial or temporary lockdowns, hitting their economies hard. Some couldn’t manage well, some had many more infections, many more deaths, some fewer. Most countries ended up isolating themselves to stave off infections from other countries, hopefully. The situation in China cleared up. Well not totally as there are still some recurring infections even in such a tightly controlled country. Tough. Or should we say, impossible.
Singapore entered into a manageable lull, without many cases. Stable. Slowly opening up a tiny bit, a tiny bit. Steps so small you wonder if they’ll ever finish.
Companies started manufacturing face masks to cope with insane demand. Hand sanitizers. Test kids. Different test kits. Hah. From high priced face masks, to cheaper face masks.
Bernadette grew up through all this, from when she was 3 months old, to 4, 5, 6, 12 months old birthday, 13, 14 months old. She finished going to hospital for follow-ups, she had to isolate more from crowds, watch us start wearing masks when outside, from being afraid and associating masks to vaccination injections, to being used to it, and I wonder if she’ll have to keep wearing it when outside in the future.
The malls were shut, dine-in everywhere was stopped, seats were cordoned off, restaurants were closed, shops were closed, food delivery, online shopping delivery. The roads emptied out of cars, buses and trains were empty, taxis were empty, private hire suddenly lost business. ‘Self employed’ was now a problem.
I spent more time with my baking, well there’s time at home. Various tarts. New stuff. New recipes. Watching old shows. Fixing up the house. We set up new cupboards.
Bernadette started crawling around more, faster, further. She played with more toys, new toys. She started pulling herself up, standing. Standing! Toddling. She spoke more, made more sounds, got smarter, and smarter. She started taking solid food, oh what a headache that was, to prepare meals instead of just drinking milk. At least she still sleeps well. Eczema problems, various doctor visits. Busy. So much to occupy one’s time.
Things and habits out there have changed so much, it’s such an odd world.
Now news of vaccines being released, and news of increased second waves in various countries, Australia grappling with it, UK, Spain, Italy again!?!, and probably more who have given up. Now grappling with vaccines, whether it will be effective, whether it will be available, roll out properly. Hah.
It’s a year of lockdowns, 5 person groups, social distancing, face masks, contact tracing, cordons, of video calls, video calls, video calls.
It’s December. December 2020. Almost 2021.
Covid-19, into 20, into 21.
You’ll look back, and wonder how was it possible. How did one survive through that, through that infection rate, death rate. But it happened, and life happened, the virus happened, we humans got through it as usual, survived through a certain adversity? Diversity? Not so easy to exterminate.
So many wars, epidemics, and other insane things that have happened in history. Still alive? But then again, if we all died, I wouldn’t be around to write this.
1 January 2021
And 2020 ended, just like that, almost like any other day at home, with some faint echos of celebrations around the neighbourhood, with us going to bed, tired from another day of taking care of a baby and still having to wake up early the next morning.
It was funny to see the local case numbers jump and spike again in the last 2 days of 2020. Almost like a last jab at you. Hah. You thought you were clear!? It’s not over yet! It was funny to see the vaccine news, supposedly good news, but yet tinged with so many shades of concern it wasn’t funny how bungled it seemed to be. Poor marketing by the western countries that made it, as usual. They’ve never seemed to be able to project any sense of confidence and reassurance this entire year / pandemic. And it flows down. We don’t trust it, because it was a rush job, by countries desperate for something, that’s why. It’s not that we don’t trust vaccines in general, nor our govt. But it wasn’t made by us, and given these countries’ current public track record, it’s not reassuring. Our exact same self-preservation instinct that has kept us relatively safe so far, is doing the same. Call it our own immune system.
I realized that for some months and weeks now I’ve kinda dropped off on the covid news a little, just to not be too crazy about it, and also busy with work and busy with life, and busy with baking! Which I thought was more productive than doing nothing and following numbers of other countries like a busybody.
Still, Australia news of Sydney Northern Beach clusters and new restrictions, Germany’s sudden severe revival, Switzerland falling, Netherlands falling, Belgium falling, US…nothing new to say, UK falling, France falling, India oddly seemingly manageable, Indonesia falling off the news, Philippines off the news, China still grappling a little. It’s a little worrying that the top tier countries have so much bad news that the secondary tier countries really fall off the radar, nobody even has time to think if their numbers are correct and real.
Minor scandals in Singapore of rule transgressions, mostly to little effect. It’s testament to the stable situation that we have time to bother with these, rather than horror stories in the US etc of overflowing ICUs, stuck ambulances, lack of oxygen, rising deaths, lack of compliance, lack of compliance, lack of compliance.
And a sudden concern over a “UK strain” B117, more infectious, supposedly. It might just come to naught, really. But it was a swift closing of borders against UK, poor things. London, who was already suffering just days before Christmas, with nearly everything cancelled at the last minute, now under the scrutiny of the world.
But it wasn’t a hugely horrible year for us. Can’t say that when our jobs weren’t affected too much, when it wasn’t a worry and risk, when our infant mostly grew well and had a great time at home. We spent time together, at home, we spent more time with our infant than otherwise possible, much much much more than otherwise possible. We saved on commute time, we spent less on going out, on travel. We didn’t have to meet people, we didn’t have to think about going overseas, we didn’t have to think about missing out because there was nothing to miss out other than spending time with family. We didn’t have school-going kids, we didn’t have elderly to take care of, we didn’t have regular things we had to keep going out for.
It helped that we were already used to it, through the late pregnancy months, the newborn months, all the staying home, enjoying being at home. In a comfortable amount of space, both physical space in a relatively new flat, and also space for ourselves away from others.
My parents had it good, their shop business did well and also very luckily didn’t have to suspend, and with additional govt support. My sister had a rough year, having been in the travel industry, but at least is ending it okay.
I guess it was the topsy-turvy kind of year, where many people’s concept of the world changes, where things no longer have to be the old way, and it could break the old mould and improve, and improve greatly in a monumental change.
It would be incredible to think back and wow I lived through that, something that was so shattering to the human race in that year. It’s always been how incredible to watch those movies of World War II, how widespread the impact, how long the dang thing lasted. Well now we have Covid-19 and it’s unabating death wave. It’s not that without covid-19 all these people would have been alive and well, because people will still die of other causes, many of them are already terribly old, and there would be more of other illnesses, but it’s still a very fancy number when looked at alone. 83 million confirmed cases and 1.8 million attributed deaths so far. (Wow World War 2 had 70-85 million casualties, so I guess we are still far off.) Given current known Infection Fatality Ratio, Covid-19 would not exceed WW2.
Still, it’s quite scary to have an invisible virus going in your lungs, no matter where you are in the world and just minding your own business, no nuclear bombs needed.
Really shocking that countries that can maintain nuclear weapons can’t get a coronavirus under control…
I was looking through my photos of the year, and I really only had a handful in April that were really reflective of Covid situation. Well that was like the only real Circuit Breaker / lockdown period, soon after that things reopened majorly. That’s the major extent of the extreme disruption to daily life, it was really quite liveable after that, many shops were open, food was never a problem, groceries and supermarkets were great, online shopping platforms covered miscellaneous things.
All the time at home also let us try new food that deliver, to people like us stuck at home with a sleeping baby:
And being at home, also means, improving things at home and working on baking:
It meant many many more sunsets experienced, and more of my neighbourhood explored on long jogs.
It’s far from over, let’s see what happens next.