In Singapore, Coronavirus was the main topic of concern and just about everyone local acknowledged this by wearing a mask. Whether this was mainly due to the large number of Chinese in the area (somewhat misplaced, but nevertheless that is perception) or not the fact was it was a real and present danger to the people of Singapore at the time of our visit. On our tour some people felt they had to cancel this stopover as the risk, in their opinion, was just too high. It also emerged during our visit that tourism had been hit significantly by the threat of the virus. Those whom we had contact with in Singapore, playing the party line, were at considerable lengths to explain the Government were doing everything in their power to halt the spread into their country. That, at the end of the day, might be futile.
On our arrival into Singapore we were health screened at the Airport. Several university students, presumably having agreed to undertake this onerous role, were masked and seated behind several wires and multiple cameras to initiate mass screening. This involved taking temperature readings. They observed the travellers arriving into the country en masse with microscopic thermometers to identify those individuals with high temperatures while they filtered their way through the airport. Our main purpose as travellers was to move swiftly past this crew without as much as an atichoo or a cough and so continue with our trip.
If you had a cold when you left Scotland (and lets face it who doesn’t) you needed to disguise it. Instead of wiping your mouth after dinner, you had to use the napkin in such a way as to disguise the real reason for its use; to conceal the tissue wiping the stream of snot from your nose. This had to be done surreptitiously in order to disguise the fact you had this common Scottish ailment that might be misconstrued by foreigners. Scotland is after all a world heritage site when it comes to colds, it was one ailment we were well accustomed to but at the moment might be seen by the rest of the world as potentially fatal.
I was also glad I wasn’t in the throes of my usual flush as I sauntered through the airport rather nonchalantly. Trying to disguise my runny nose was bad enough without trying to conceal a sudden rise in my temperature caused by a flush. Otherwise I’d have been swept up, turned around and booted right back to where I came from. The menopause cannot fool thermometers because when it begins it feels like a furnace has started burning in your skull and the only way to release this heat it is through your hair and skin pores. Thus any remote thermometer is likely to identify you sooner rather than later. While this less than welcome intruder is making its mark on your temperature you find yourself praying it will subside soon and no-one will notice it. You could try to conceal it by waiving your passport frantically like a fan to avert the emerging heat and hope that you look as if you are just slightly harassed from finding your luggage. The reality of course is always different; most people notice your flush and then try to avoid looking at you as you disintegrate into a sea of scarlet, all the while trying to maintain a level of cool, that everyone knows is fooling no-one.
Every shop in Singapore had a hand sanitiser, every toilet had a public safety message about the Coronavirus, and making sure you washed your hands was plastered everywhere. Singapore was worried about the spread of this virus even though the corporate messages were clearly meant to reassure you. The mask wearing public took no chances while we tourists, well we worried about it from a distance with ambivalence. No-one else felt the risk was low and were keen to prevent any opportunity to contract the virus or allow it to spread. The world, in Singapore at least, went about its business at this stage not too inhibited by Coronavirus. It was clear that keeping its threat at bay was going to take a lot more work than hand sanitisers and masks. Singapore was sending a message; almost impertinently that the virus was not welcome here, while all the while knowing it was only a matter of time before it arrived.
As we continue on our trip the Coronavirus dominates the headlines. We keep our masks close at hand but have as yet had little cause to use them. Let’s hope that good fortune continues as we venture into the unknown.