Rishabh is an actuary at Deloitte, based in Singapore. He recently moved from London and is originally from India. He loves playing percussion instruments and painting and is learning boxing.
It was the morning of 8 March 2020 in London, and I was supposed to pack up items in my living room that day. I opened the news apps on my phone to check the latest update on the outbreak in Asia. The latest news update read:
“All travellers from the UK to Singapore are required to ask for permission from the Singapore government to enter the country on or after 14 March 2020. Travellers to spend 14 days in quarantine in Singapore.”
There was panic everywhere… and that’s how my plan to move from London to Singapore was significantly sped up so that we could arrive before the 14 March deadline.
My wife and I quickly decided to revise our plan. Within a week, we had spoken with our employers, packed our belongings, settled our apartment lease, bid goodbye to our friends and work colleagues, closed off our accounts with the utility companies, and taken a flight from the UK to Singapore, a month-and-a-half earlier than planned. We did all this while still going to work during our last week in London.
We were already stressing about the move, but the pandemic just added to the anxiety. Many things could have gone wrong. For one, we could have been laid off by our future employers, let alone the added risk of moving and settling in Singapore. But my wife and I were prepared and determined to get through it before the situation worsened.
We had been tracking the coronavirus situation for a while and had already talked to our landlord for a potential unplanned leave early this year. I had also requested the moving company for early dates in case we had to leave early. Packing the house in two days was a struggle, but we managed to do it, and the rest we improvised. Planning beforehand and effective management got us to successfully pack up from London and arrive in Singapore on 13 March.
At this point, the outbreak had been declared a pandemic, and governments all over the world started putting restrictions in place. The UK was no different and imposed a strict lockdown in the country. This meant the new tenants who were supposed to move into our flat couldn’t, and we were asked by our landlord to continue paying rent until September 2020 for a flat in a country we had already left. This added to our stress as I was already under financial strain due to moving expenses; and the pandemic had further contributed to the uncertainty of our future in Singapore. But again, we were not ready to accept what was being handed to us; rather, we wanted to fight for what we wanted. We contacted a few solicitors in the UK for advice and reached out to housing authorities for their help. To our surprise, this was something that a lot of tenants in different parts of the UK had been struggling with and had been reaching out to news agencies. After several heated discussions with the landlord, we finally managed to free ourselves from the agreement thanks to the steps taken by the UK government to help and support both tenants and landlords during these times.
Soon after, the Singaporean government announced it was going to impose circuit breaker measures beginning on 7 April, right before we had even joined our new employers. But, to our surprise, we soon received emails from HR describing revised plans to onboard as efficiently as possible before or during the circuit breaker measures. Luckily, I attended orientation right before the circuit breaker started. How this situation turned out really made us appreciate our new employers – mine being my new member firm, and my wife’s being a new company – and helped us realize that, at the end of the day, the best companies have a human touch and care about their employees.
Working from home became the new norm during this crisis. COVID-19 cases were rising, and there was a general feeling of despair among the public. Governments all over the world were rolling out measures to protect healthcare workers, provide bailout packages for businesses, and keep their economies going. That’s when I realized that I had to play my part in this, and I decided to volunteer for SG Healthcare Corps. I registered to volunteer my free time to help healthcare workers in their fight against COVID-19 and attended an all-day training. I am currently waiting for deployment instructions from the Ministry of Health.
Now the circuit breaker is over, and we are allowed to leave the house. I finally feel like I have moved to Singapore - a new country, a new job, and settling into my new life. I have a new sense of appreciation for governments, businesses, people, and, above all, our environment and nature. There have been sightings of birds and animals returning to cities in numerous parts of the world. I believe this has given us all hope, especially the younger generations who have been actively voicing their demands to save the environment. Even though the fight against COVID-19 is ongoing and everyone is eagerly waiting for it to end, the younger generation is prepping for a bigger challenge to secure a sound future for themselves.
(PS - I am still waiting for my personal belongings to arrive from London!)