I have not yet met my management officer. But it has to be out there somewhere in the vastness of the internet. He – or she – takes care of me. On normal days, hundreds of cameras watch me walking through Singapore, and the billing system in the car for the road fee alone tells the state where I am going and where I am parking.
But now the normal days are over. Now Corona rules. And now I’m really under surveillance.
Last Saturday I took the almost last plane from “down-under” back to the Southeast Asian metropolis of Singapore. I crossed the border at Changi Airport 20 hours after the government tightened the quarantine guidelines. That’s why not only my passport was read electronically at the border. I also had to give officials my email address, phone numbers, and address. For that, they gave me an SHN. That was a copied Din-A-4 sheet with English and Chinese text that has it all. Because the “Stay at Home Notice” forces me to a 14-day self-quarantine. Home.
Although Australia had fewer cases than Singapore at the time of my departure, I am now at risk. As a suspected corona, I am not allowed to leave my apartment for 14 days. I have been living and working here for 21 years. Surveillance in the city has increased over the years.
Recently there have been major disputes about how far Singapore can access the Internet. But now it’s about life and death. The city-state with its almost 6 million inhabitants reports with around 630 infected people about as many as India with its 1.3 billion people. In terms of percentage, however, things are very different. And finally, home comers, in particular, have brought the plague to the island. Around the world, Singapore is praised for its wise approach to Corona. I feel it now on my own body.
Singapore went through the Asian crisis in 1998, the Sars crisis in 2003, the global financial crisis from 2008 and now Corona is haunting the city. The people here live in the high-risk area because the city is one of the most open in the world: it cannot close itself off because the island without natural resources lives from trade and financial transactions.
The tropical island has now become rich. And it has developed into a “smart city”, whose government recognizes its own and the well-being of its citizens by using “blockchain” as quickly as possible, letting passenger drones fly and being able to control citizens’ movements.
Eat, read, sleep alone
She now uses this knowledge, this technique. At the latest, I notice how it feels when my cell phone rings several times a day. Then the authorities check whether I play according to their rules. They are simple: do not leave the apartment for 14 days, no visit, eat alone, read, sleep. Anyone who violates the instructions as a foreigner is denied their visa.
Yesterday the government increased the penalties: Now going to the park or buying toilet paper during the SHN self-quarantine costs 10,000 Singapore dollars (6,377 euros). Or even six months in prison. Singapore’s interior minister, who was never afraid of sharpness, explains this: “There will always be a few in every society who are irresponsible and who risk jeopardizing our efforts and endangering the lives of others.”
That will not do. Certainly not in a Confucian society, in which the individual counts less than the unity. And I, an individual and a guest in this country for two decades, don’t want to risk anything. So I stay at home. Around the clock.
SMS from the border police
The state does not want to rely on my goodwill and reliable character. He makes my life easier because he wants to know exactly. So the border police send an SMS to my cell phone two or three times a day. There the rules are given to me to read again and again. Then comes the request to stop the location service on my cell phone. Because of the justified fear that I am too stupid for this, the next link leads me to an illustrated guide – finely structured according to Apple, Samsung, Google, and, yes, Huawei, and all other brands.
My daughter checked that I set everything up correctly. Somehow, however, that doesn’t seem to be enough, because the note has been flashing with every SMS for four days now. Can’t the officials find me? Or do you put it on every message as a precaution?
Either way, I now have to press a link that the police can use to see on my screens where my cell phone is. A friend remarked that I could just leave the cell phone in the care of my daughter and donate it – after all, she spends most of her now completely free time on her own phone anyway. A second – mine – on which she communicated with the Singapore police would even give her some variety. But does not work. Because Singapore officials are so easy to pry out.
That’s why they send me another SMS once or twice a day: If I click on their link, what I have to do within an hour opens an app that asks me to take a picture of my face and send the picture. Then I have to take a picture of the room I am sitting in and also send this photo.
Now my guards know which pictures are hanging on our walls and whether there is dust. My daughter joked that they would probably be paid for by Amazon, which would now send me offers for books immediately because they looked so shredded on my shelf. But of course, there is nothing like that in corruption-free Singapore.
The stupid thing is that I wasn’t in the office yesterday when I pressed the button. Now the officials have seen the living room, where I was doing my gymnastics as a prisoner of my four walls when my commanding officer took care of me. He didn’t know (which is somehow amazing …).
But now my face was sweaty first (fear? On the run?) And secondly, the walls looked different (did he just rearrange the books? Is he visiting somewhere else?). Since then I hope that for officials the picture is a book, the book is the book, one room as good as the other. And nobody noticed. Tomorrow I will be back at my desk when the SMS comes. Promised. Honest!
Nevertheless, it is not enough. Because my unknown guardian angels in the data center also master ancient tactics. You simply call. Via the landline. I would be better off if I don’t want to spend six months in Changi Prison after five days in the apartment.
But it is not yet ready. Because before that they come over and knock on the door. Since my dog reacts particularly loudly to uninformed people from an early age, I am not worried about missing the posted workers. When they come, I have to confirm that I was at home all the time. And that will definitely remain. I also received an email in which Andre from the nice customer service of the border police, the “Customer Relations Office” of the “Home Team”, told me not to worry. I could tell the officers at the door if I had problems reporting my status.