A coronavirus patient spends 60 days isolated in hospital; entrepreneurs struggle with the loss of business; overseas Singaporeans are forced to return home abruptly; families celebrate a quiet Hari Raya Puasa.

These are some accounts of the tumultuous past half a year, documented by people who wrote letters addressed to the coronavirus as part of a memory project, Dear Covid-19 (dearcovid19sg.com).

It is one of at least four memory projects that have emerged over the past two months. A combination of government and ground-up initiatives, these projects share a common goal – documenting the day-to-day experience of ordinary folk while the country battles the coronavirus.

"A lot has been said about people on the front line, and while it is great that we celebrate them, we wanted to create something that would be relatable to the rest of Singapore, who are stuck at home," says Mr Matthew Zeng, managing director of integrated marketing agency DSTNCT, which conceptualised Dear Covid-19 in partnership with the National Youth Council Singapore.

The project was launched last month with about 100 stories, accompanied by photos from virtual shoots by local studio Pixioo.

Some feature recognisable faces, such as actress Cheryl Wee, who wrote about caring for her two young children during the circuit breaker, and influencer Christabel Chua (@bellywellyjelly on Instagram), who learnt to cook new dishes from her helper. About 400 more stories have been submitted.


Browsing the letters, a common thread emerges. Many lament the difficult times, yet also express gratitude and positivity.

Event planner Aakarshana Saravanan, 31, whose job scope has shifted to overseeing a temporary dormitory for foreign workers, was initially disappointed that she did not get to work from home and spend time with her family during the two-month circuit breaker period.

She and her husband, a 39-year-old pilot, were also forced to postpone their long-awaited honeymoon, which they had been looking forward to since getting married six years ago.

But writing a letter to Covid-19 helped put things into perspective.

It was a chance to reflect and be grateful that I still have a job – to focus on the good, instead of whining about small problems.

EVENT PLANNER AAKARSHANA SARAVANAN (with one of her sons), on writing a letter addressed to the coronavirus as part of memory project Dear Covid-19

"It was a chance to reflect and be grateful that I still have a job – to focus on the good, instead of whining about small problems," says the mother of two sons aged four and 1½.

Dr Shawn Ee, director of The Psychology Practice, says expressing negative emotions offers a form of catharsis. It is a way to cope with grief, or the loss of reality, that can arise from these strange circumstances.

"Being able to rant at or communicate about Covid-19 allows people to retrieve some sense of control in an uncertain situation," says Dr Ee, who is also a clinical psychologist and psychoanalytic therapist.

Indeed, freelance musician Joie Tan, 25, felt angry and helpless when her boyfriend Charlie Triano and his father, both from Delaware, in the United States, contracted the coronavirus in March.

Her boyfriend, 24, who is waiting to attend university and had been staying home for months, caught the virus from his father. The elder Mr Triano had been infected by a colleague who had gone to work even though his wife was awaiting test results and later tested positive.

"I was furious. Livid. I was angry at the situation, for Charlie, and because of one man's stupid mistake that could have been avoided," says Ms Tan.

She adds that instead of being hospitalised, her boyfriend was told to stay home and treat his symptoms.

"I wished he was here in Singapore, so at least he would be taken care of," she says. The couple, who met online, have been in a longdistance relationship for 3½ years.

Yet she, too, came to see the light in the situation.

"We have it so good in Singapore," she wrote in her letter, contrasting the care and testing that patients receive here to those in the US.


For those who do not fancy picking up a pen, there are other ways to tell one's story.

A joint collection drive by the National Library Board (NLB) and the National Museum of Singapore is under way until the end of the year, collecting personal perspectives and key objects to present a picture of living with the coronavirus in Singapore.

NLB is looking for videos, audio recordings, photographs, flyers, posters, blogs, journals and diaries, while the museum is collecting images of objects and their accompanying stories. These might include household items, hand-sewn masks and SafeEntry posters.

The items will augment official sources such as websites and television broadcasts to provide a more personal aspect of the experience, and may feature in future exhibitions presented by the National Museum.

Meanwhile, content writer Edward Teo, 31, and his colleagues at advertising agency Tribal Worldwide are putting together a visual journal of things people miss and lessons they have learnt under the circuit breaker.

Titled SG Interrupted (@sg.interrupted on Instagram), the project is tailored to the social-media generation, with minute-long videos and a square format for mobile viewing. Five videos have been uploaded since the project was launched this month.

In one video, cinematographer Basil Tan says staying home has made him ruminate on why he chose to work in visual media over music composition, both of which he is passionate about.

"I miss going with the flow and not having to examine the career choices I've made," says the 28-year-old.

Mr Teo, a former Straits Times video journalist, guides contributors to shoot footage and a voice-over, which he edits.

He is looking to capture more "raw and honest" stories and says upcRead More – Source

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