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Charmaine Ng

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Dear Covid-19 You just don’t seem to quit. In fact, I seem to be following you with my every move. When my husband and I returned from the US to Singapore thinking that things were better there, we moved from our Stay-Home-Notice to Phase 1 of the Circuit Breaker. After several weeks of this lockdown (let’s call a spade a spade), we finally got the green light to book our tickets back to the US where the situation only seemed wild along the coasts and where we were going to be was fine. As the departure date drew closer, the US began reopening and suddenly, we were once again making our way into your epicentre. Most ironically, we flew off on the first day of Phase 2 in Singapore. Thankfully, we were able to meet our families as the lockdown measures eased up towards the end of Phase 1 and said our farewells once more. In my entire life, I have never seen Changi Airport that empty and quiet before. There were only about 60 passengers onboard our flight to the US. Most of the shops were having sales but there were no patrons at all. It was almost like a ghost town. All the staff donned masks and there were hand sanitizers at every counter. One thing’s for sure, Changi Airport was going to be incredibly well-prepared and clean during this lull period. We had to wear our masks throughout the flight, except during mealtimes. On the bright side, most of us got a row to ourselves which was kind of nice. The crew was careful to maintain their distance during meal service and wore goggles along with their masks. One would think, “What could possibly go wrong with a non-stop flight from Singapore to Los Angeles?” Three hours after take-off, as I was preparing to sleep, something was amiss. The pilot then made an announcement that we had to make a diversion into Japan’s Haneda Airport due to a medical emergency. After landing, we stayed in the plane for six hours as the Japanese firemen department performed the rescue. Once that was resolved, we then received news that the flight crew had to be grounded as they have been on duty for too long. The crew would need to rest for eight hours before we could take-off again. At this juncture, we were fatigued and numb to what was happening. After disembarking from the plane, we were then informed that we were not allowed entry into Japan due to Covid19 and can only remain in the transit area of the airport. There were only two stores open in the entire airport. Due to the size of the airport as well as the current travel situation, there was only one other flight which was departing in a few hours. However, it was most likely full and unable to accommodate more than a handful of us. The only other real option we had was to wait 13 hours in the airport until the crew was rested, and then resume our journey to the US. And so, we waited. Thirteen hours later, we were back on the same plane with all the same tired faces. Most of us passed out within the first hour of boarding. We finally crossed the Pacific Ocean and arrived at Los Angeles. Many of us had to rebook the second leg of our journey as we were headed to other US cities and states. The Los Angeles airport was also very empty, with the crowded terminals being the ones flying out of the US. We had to stay a night at a transit hotel as we were not able to make our domestic flight on the day of arrival. The domestic flight, however, was completely packed. There was no social distancing, people wore face coverings such as scarves instead of masks and it felt like any other regular flight. Upon landing in Houston, the domestic airport was crowded, people were not wearing masks/face coverings and it almost felt like you were not an issue at all. My husband and I were terrified. Eventually, after more than 24 hours of traveling, we arrived back in our apartment. It felt so good to be back home, to know that we can finally settle into one space without having to live out of suitcases anymore. Our families and friends have checked in on us regularly, maintaining that mental and emotional support for us. But I am scared and worried; not for us but for the people here who do not take it seriously. For them who do not see just how deadly and damaging you can be. Despite all these, we have been keeping to ourselves, staying home and doing our part for the local community. Let us not take for granted the progress we have made until a vaccine is available. Everyone has a part to play in keeping you at bay.