COVID limbo leaves Thai-Singapore couple (and baby) stranded at hotel

Ivan Tay’s 1-year-old son looks out the window of the Carlton Hotel. Photo: Pearl Pearl/Facebook
Ivan Tay’s 1-year-old son looks out the window of the Carlton Hotel. Photo: Pearl Pearl/Facebook

After recovering from COVID-19 in Bangkok four months ago, the Tay family did not expect the coronavirus to come back and haunt them on their first trip to Singapore together. 

Singaporean Ivan Tay, 31, his Thai wife Nantavadee Samran, 24, and their baby have been stuck at the Carlton Hotel since their quarantine began Oct. 20. They were originally due to be released Saturday, but that was foiled after test results came back positive, kicking off a round of shilly-shallying with government officers. 

“We came here in such a happy mood, to see my family again because I haven’t been back since February 2020; that’s more than a year. And also to show my whole family my newborn son for the first time!” Tay, who works in machinery sales in Thailand, told Coconuts from hotel captivity. 

The family has been stuck in a waiting game for 48 hours, Tay said. They packed and unpacked their belongings twice this past weekend after officers purportedly acceded to Tay’s request to shuffle them to a separate COVID-19 recovery center together instead of splitting them up. At 6pm on Saturday, nobody came. 

On Sunday, an ambulance arrived only to abandon the family upon learning they had a baby, according to Tay, who had yet to receive updates from authorities when he spoke to Coconuts this morning. He also rejected a suggestion to move his elderly grandmother to a separate facility so that his family would be eligible to recover at home. 

He said all three of them are asymptomatic, and he suspects the still-growing outbreak in Singapore is partly to blame for the bureaucratic limbo they have found themselves in.

“I understand the system is probably overwhelmed now by the surge of cases, I’m fine if they leave us here to self-monitor ourselves and give us some emergency numbers to call if necessary,” he added. “But I can’t accept it if they keep telling us to pack up and get ready to leave, only to cancel us. Not once, but twice!”

Tay said he is starting to regret returning to Singapore, where he had planned to get vaccinated and stay for Chinese New Year celebrations. 

‘Much strained’

Unfortunately, they are not the only ones affected by Singapore’s poor COVID-19 administration. As thousands of people have contracted the disease every day in recent months, the Ministry of Health has been criticized for giving unclear instructions to patients, even after announcing more people could recover at home. 

Officers from the Singapore Armed Forces and volunteers from the People’s Association community outreach stat board have also been roped in to provide manpower support, according to a September announcement. The Ministry of Health said at the time that its ground operations were “much strained” and urged patients to avoid jamming its hotline. 

The COVID-19 recovery process seems smoother in Thailand, according to Tay, whose family tested positive in July and boarded an ambulance the same day for a hotel-turned-hospital where they “were immediately given medical attention.”

Tay was unclear as to why his family would test positive again while in Singapore despite staying in the hotel room the whole time and not interacting with anyone. None of them showed symptoms. 

Tay said the family had tested negative for COVID-19 in the 48 hours prior to departing Thailand, tested negative again while at Changi Airport, and suddenly tested positive at the four-star Carlton Hotel. 

He questioned the lack of standardized testing.

“In Changi, the swab test was nose and throat, and very shallowly swabbed,” he said. “The exit test here, the swab was only for nose and went really deep.”

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