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What it's like to travel to Shanghai during the pandemic10/9/2020

When the quarantine is no longer needed, come visit me in Shanghai!”To get more latest Shanghai news, you can visit shine news official website.

That was my grand invitation to colleagues and friends before I took up my position as Lianhe Zaobao’s Shanghai correspondent. However, I knew I was too ambitious the moment I landed in Shanghai. Not considering the 14-day centralised quarantine, international flights and customs clearance procedures during the pandemic were already enough to turn avid travellers away.
The air was tense before I boarded the plane and departed for Shanghai. Singapore Changi Airport’s departure hall stood empty. There were no tearful goodbyes. A handful of people walked past hastily, in silence. Stores were shuttered. Of the few that were open, customer greetings had changed from a friendly “Welcome!” to a reminder to “check-in digitally by scanning the QR code”.

Knowing that I would be stuck in an enclosed cabin for five hours, I decided to put on a face shield in addition to my medical mask, thinking that two layers of protection would suffice. It was not until I saw how securely protected the other travellers were that I realised the insignificance of my so-called protective measures. More than half of the travellers in the waiting area were in snow white personal protective equipment (PPE) complete with N95 face masks, face shields, and hats. Some people even wore disposable foot covers, determined to thoroughly protect themselves from head to toe.

However, due to the multiple layers of protection, some people recorded higher body temperatures while boarding. They had to remove their hats to lower their body temperatures before joining the queue again. The PPEs also made going to the toilet a cumbersome task, and many passengers chose to not eat or drink throughout the flight. For the first time ever, I was able to use the lavatory without having to queue.
While the number of protection measures have increased, inflight services have been reduced. Inflight meal services are no longer available on the Singapore Airlines’ flight to Shanghai, while inflight products are distributed before boarding the aircraft. These include a bag of snacks and drinks, a kit containing a surgical mask, anti-bacterial wipes and a hand sanitiser, and a pair of headphones for the inflight entertainment system.

Three hours into the flight, the air stewardesses emerged again — not with meals and drinks — but with thermometers to measure body temperatures and check if the passengers were feeling alright.After more than five hours, the plane landed at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Passengers seated at the front rows excitedly stood up and reached for their bags, but were immediately stopped by the air stewardesses. A moment later, two Chinese customs quarantine officers entered the cabin. They checked the passenger list and ensured that all of us had completed our online health declarations before the flight. The passengers disembarked in batches, while those who failed to submit their health declarations were the last to leave.

Then came Covid-19 testing. We were given a coronavirus sampling sheet and a test tube after presenting our health codes to the quarantine officers. We then headed to the test site that was ten minutes away from the collection point via a temporarily built passageway. I knew nasal swab tests could easily cause discomfort and was secretly relieved when I heard that we were going to take a blood test. To my horror, I was asked to tilt my head backwards after the blood test. I screamed, “Isn’t a blood test enough?” The swabber replied calmly, “After I swabbed both sides of the nose, I would also need to do a throat swab. Then only would the results be accurate.”

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