SHN survival guide: Tried-and-tested tips to get through isolation

Ms Kerrin Kua borrowed a road bike from her uncle and bought a stationary stand for it, riding for about 30 minutes every day when serving a 21-day SHN. PHOTO: KERRIN KUA

SINGAPORE - With the stay-home notice (SHN) period extended from 14 to 21 days for travellers from most countries, more are being cooped up for longer these days.

More children, accompanied by their parents, are also serving quarantine orders. They are students who are close contacts of Covid-19 cases in the recent spate of infections that are linked to schools.

SHNs can be served at home or dedicated facilities like hotels, while quarantine orders must be fulfilled in the home, at dedicated Government Quarantine Facilities or in hospitals.

Being stuck indoors for days can take a toll on mental health, so The Straits Times has put together a survival guide - with tips from folks who have been or are going through these periods of isolation.

1. Turn your room into a gym

Shake off cabin fever by working up a sweat.

Even the smallest of rooms has space for a yoga mat, and fitness apps can guide you through all manner of workouts including yoga, pilates and high-intensity interval training.

It is possible to get a good workout from body-weight exercises alone. But if you prefer using weights or other fitness equipment, rent them from websites such as SHN-Sport, SweatSpot or Happy SHN, which carry items such as adjustable dumbbell sets, spin bikes and treadmills.

Currently serving a 21-day SHN at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, investment banker Anand Gopalan, 38, rented a stationary bike from SHN-Sport and has been cycling for about an hour each day in two 30-minute blocks.

The Singaporean lives in San Francisco and came back for his sister's wedding, which is taking place next month.

He is working remotely in the hotel room and usually bookends office hours with a bike ride, following YouTube videos of spin classes.

"I don't usually work out, but I don't want to finish quarantine and be five sizes up," says Mr Anand, who paid $210 to rent a bike for 21 days.

You need not feel icky about renting used gear as rental companies disinfect their equipment between customers. Mr David Lee, founder of Happy SHN, says it sprays rented items with hospital-grade isopropyl alcohol, then cleans them with disinfectant wipes.

Ms Kerrin Kua does yoga or high-intensity interval training classes every other day. PHOTO: KERRIN KUA

Singaporean Kerrin Kua, who is midway through her 21-day SHN at the same hotel, also occupies herself with regular workouts.

The 33-year-old returned from a three-month trip to Seattle in the United States to visit her fiance. This is her second SHN at a hotel. She served 14 days in October last year, also after a trip to the US.

She borrowed a road bike from her uncle and bought a trainer - a stand which keeps the bike stationary - for it, riding for about 30 minutes every day. She also does yoga or high-intensity interval training classes every other day.

"Just the idea of knowing that you are doing something good for your body and mental health is helpful," says Ms Kua, who is between jobs.

2. Make your room feel like home

Besides exercise equipment, you can also rent household appliances and entertainment devices.

Happy SHN offers items such as mini refrigerators, portable washing machines, Sony Playstation 5 and Nintendo Switch.

Mr Lee, 35, came up with the idea while serving his second SHN last December at Village Hotel Albert Court after returning from a business trip in Britain.

His first SHN was in May last year at InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay after returning from South Korea where he had previously been based.

During his second SHN, he found the room dusty and reeking of mould, and contemplated buying a vacuum cleaner and air purifier online.

But a week into his 14-day SHN by then, he decided against it as the items might take too long to arrive.

Scouring SHN support groups on Facebook, he realised others had similar experiences and he set up Happy SHN in the same month.

Since then, demand has been steady. He rents out 100 to 150 items each month, with exercise equipment among the most popular. Vacuum cleaners, air purifiers, fans and the Sony PlayStation 5 are also in hot demand.

Customers can also request items not listed on the website (

For instance, Mr Lee has procured a mini freezer for a breastfeeding mother to store breast milk.

Briton Lisa Morrison, 40, paid about $700 to rent a treadmill, stationary bicycle, coffee machine and microwave from Happy SHN during her 21-day stint at Grand Hyatt Singapore last month.

The policy manager at a tech company lost her father last month and travelled to France to be with her mother, who lives there.

Even without renting items, there are ways to make a cookie-cutter hotel room work for you.

Shifting the bed or furniture around can free up space for exercise and play, demarcate living areas and help keep the room tidy - especially important for parents with young children.

Ms Katiana Sukamto set up an "activity corner" by moving a coffee table to a corner of the room and placing toys there. PHOTO: KATIANA SUKAMTO

Sales and marketing executive Katiana Sukamto, who is serving her SHN at Citadines Rochor Singapore with her 2½-year-old twin daughters, set up an "activity corner" by moving a coffee table to a corner of the room and placing toys there.

The US citizen and Singapore permanent resident added pops of colour to the room by putting up animal and alphabet charts. She also created a bath-time activity by sticking large rolls of paper in the shower for her daughters to have fun with water-soluble paint.

Decorating the room with their resulting artwork makes it feel a bit more like home, says Ms Sukamto, 35, who had returned from the Philippines.

She was initially worried about her daughters being bored, but found that they easily devised their own ways to have fun.

"They would look at the space and find ways to play, like climbing into my suitcase and pretending they're in a boat.

"It is a chance for them to develop imagination play," she says.

3. Upgrade your room

The Signature Salon Suite at Fairmont Singapore, which costs $7,500 for a 21-day stay. PHOTO: FAIRMONT SINGAPORE

Returning Singaporeans and residents talk about the "SHN lottery" - not knowing where they will be put up until the day of arrival, when a bus drops them off at their temporary residence.

Landing luxury digs such as JW Marriott Singapore South Beach or The St Regis Singapore is like striking gold.

Others who are not as fortunate may have to rough it out at a small budget hotel.

If money is not an issue, you can upgrade to a suite, which costs between $7,500 for one that is less than 80 sq m and $30,000 for one bigger than 200 sq m.

A standard SHN room is about 25 sq m and costs $3,000.

Prices are for a single adult for a 21-day SHN, including food.

The Stamford Crest Suite at Swissotel The Stamford, which costs $11,250 for a 21-day stay. PHOTO: SWISSOTEL THE STAMFORD

Eight hotels are currently offering suites for SHN, including Swissotel The Stamford, Fairmont Singapore, Grand Hyatt Singapore and Regent Singapore.

To secure a suite, book one at least 48 hours before arrival. You can also transfer to a suite after being assigned your SHN room, but will have to pay an additional $345 to cover the cost of transport and cleaning of your vacated room.

For more information, go to this link.

4. Eat well

They look forward to hotel staff ringing their doorbells to drop off meals, say SHN guests.

Those with dietary preferences or requirements can indicate them.

Ms Kua, for instance, asked for more vegetables during her 14-day stay at Orchard Hotel in October.

Ms Kua asked for more vegetables during her 14-day stay at Orchard Hotel in October. PHOTO: KERRIN KUA

Alternatively, sign up for a specialised meal plan.

Ms Morrison ordered a low-carbohydrate meal plan from Yolo food, which sent lunch and dinner to her hotel on weekdays. She paid about $300 for 10 days of meals, which include dishes such as rendang chicken.

Meanwhile, Ms Sukamto ordered healthier treats for herself and her daughters, including zucchini brownies from local company The Ice Cream and Cookie Co.

5. Communicate with the outside world

While isolated, staying in touch with friends and loved ones can make all the difference.

Keep in touch through online karaoke sessions and games, or just catch up on video communication platforms.

When the pandemic kicked in last year, Mr Anand made regular video calls with his cousins living in Singapore, Australia and across the United States, where they would play trivia games and catch up on one another's lives.

"It brought us closer and helped us understand what everyone is facing globally," says Mr Anand, who is keeping up these calls during his SHN.

He also makes daily calls to his 34-year-old wife, a director of corporate development who is in the US.

6. Start a hobby

Keep boredom at bay with a hobby or new project. Setting small goals can impart a sense of control and accomplishment amid a strange situation.

Ms Kua has been meditating for 15 minutes daily, following guided sessions with meditation app Balance.

While in SHN, Mr Anand has been practising for about an hour every day. PHOTO: ANAND GOPALAN

For Mr Anand, peace of mind comes from practising the veena, an Indian stringed instrument he has played for the past two decades.

"When I play music, it forces me to have complete focus in trying to perfect the piece, which puts me in a different state of mind for a bit," he says.

While in SHN, he has been practising for about an hour every day and has been taking classes two to three times each week over video call with his New York City-based instructor.

As for Ms Morrison, self-care became a project that kept her going while in isolation. She set daily goals, such as clocking 10,000 steps on the treadmill, along with spin classes on fitness app Peloton.

The mother of two says: "As a working mum, you don't get a lot of time to yourself. I decided to use my time in SHN to get a lot of sleep, be super healthy and take care of myself."

Do not feel bad, however, if you would rather binge on Netflix or dive into a good book.

Ms Morrison adds: "If fitness is not your thing, find something that is. Take a course, learn to draw or pick up coding.

"You can't fight the situation, so just decide what you want to do with that time and be intentional about your choices."

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