On March 21, I returned to Singapore, a country initially lauded for its COVID-19 measures. Cases in Singapore rose exponentially and stricter measures kicked in with every government press conference. Soon, boisterous children in the condominium are nowhere to be heard. Though still crowded at times, supermarkets become unnaturally muted behind masks.
Paying visits to supermarkets and food establishments liberates many, including me, from confinement. But once out, liberation comes at full speed – there is no time to pause, legally, in the public space. Benches are cordoned off by tapes and most shops no longer open. Coronavirus has taught us a lesson: even this is a luxury.
Life is not the same for essential workers, who aren’t given a real choice between eschewing health risks and maintaining a livelihood. Busy operations continue at food establishments, like a blessing to those working in related businesses.
The pandemic has torn away veils of inequality. What next?
Only direct paths in the parks remain open in Tanah Merah, Singapore, May 3, 2020. Photo by Yifan Yu
Dine-in is no longer allowed under Singapore’s Circuit Breaker. Ann, employee at a restaurant in Tanah Merah tells customers not to sit on the chairs in the restaurant, April 25, 2020. Photo by Yifan Yu
Employees at Haig Road Putu Piring making putu piring, or kueh tutu, for delivery or takeout orders. The traditional Malay street snack made of rice flour and gula melaka (palm sugar) is usually consumed immediately, April 15, 2020. Photo by Yifan Yu
Stone bench, where families or couples would sit for after-dinner walk, is cordoned off, May 3, 2020. Photo by Yifan Yu
Employee at Syed Cafe says he makes 500 roti pratas, known in the US as roti, everyday. Photo by Yifan Yu
Employees at Syed Cafe clean up after completing an order for 2000 people. The employees said that the government has placed 4000 orders per day from April 19 to June 1 for staff catering. An entire side of the kitchen is used for these orders and employees work from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. to complete the orders, May 2, 2020. Photo by Yifan Yu
A Western food restaurant separate lines for deliverymen and customers ordering takeouts. There is little communication between deliverymen and restaurant employees at this line, May 2, 2020. Photo by Yifan Yu
Benches are usually extra space for a crowded hawker center. They are now cordoned off next to the empty hawker center, April 14, 2020. Photo by Yifan Yu
Wang’s fruit store is one the few stalls open in a neighborhood wet market. But noticeably more customers make their purchases at a large fruit store opposite Wang’s. April 29, 2020. Photo by Yifan Yu
Row of shops that have closed as they are not “essential service”, April 29, 2020. Photo by Yifan Yu
Huang (left) and Liu (right) are employees of SKP, a container store. The store selling plastic food containers remains essential for food delivery. Large boxes of containers from SKP are seen near Syed Cafe, April 29, 2020. Photo by Yifan Yu
Playground in condominium on March 27, 2020. Photo by Yifan Yu