Who remembers the last time when we could breathe freely outdoors without a mask? This doesn’t include when you’re exercising outdoors or those who are just recalcitrant chin maskers. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has been around for two years, many aspects of our daily lives have fundamentally changed.
In this ‘new normal’, things like mask-wearing, scanning TraceTogether and sanitising hands have become second nature to many of us. Many of us also had to adapt to working from home (WFH), limit social gatherings, and were stuck on this island for the past two years due to border closures.
9 Things That Have Changed Since COVID-19
As we transition from pandemic to endemic, we take a look at how COVID-19 has changed our lives at home, shaken the property market, and more.
1. Work From Home or Remote Working as The Norm
Before we knew it, our homes had become our offices and we had the luxury of waking up an hour later for the larger part of the last two years.
This saw a boom in people transforming their living spaces into a productive space to work, millennials renting their own places, and more people buying larger homes, many of which in the Outside Central Region.
Noisy neighbours were also another problem for some of us (need some tips to soundproof your home?).
Since then, we’ve had on-and-off periods of returning to the office, but who knows when we’ll be able to work at full strength in the office anymore? Should we even have to is the larger question.
2. Home-Based Learning to Blended Learning
Working parents had to grapple with their own work and taking care of their kids during the home-based learning (HBL) period. It was especially tough for large families that didn’t have enough laptops for all the kids to use. At the same time, teachers’ workload doubled as they had to prepare for extra lessons to conduct HBL.
However, HBL days will be here to stay. Or rather, it’s now known as “blended learning”, where there will be both in-school and at-home learning.
3. Lockdown(s) and Restrictions
Compared to other countries such as Australia, China, Malaysia and those in Europe, Singapore has been lucky to avoid multiple lockdowns, except for Circuit Breaker in 2020.
Even then, this prevented home viewings and renovations from taking place.
On top of that, we’ve still had to live with heightened alert phases, which saw condo launches postponed, reduced group sizes for house viewings and no open house activities.
Although the Omicron variant is sending much of the world into a tailspin, the Government has said that current COVID-19 restrictions will only be tightened as a last resort if the healthcare system is strained.
In the event that does happen, at least we’ll be more prepared?
4. Border Closures and Delayed BTOs
Apart from the lack of travel, one of the keenly felt impacts of border closures were BTOs being delayed.
Prices of raw materials and foreign manpower increased for contractors amid border closures, and this affected many construction companies. As many as 2,900 BTO home buyers were affected when five companies went bust.
Since then, the Government has pumped aid to help the construction sector. As of Oct 2021, the waiting times for BTO projects will take around three to five-and-a-half years, which is still around or just slightly longer than the usual average time.
At the same time, border closures also meant fewer foreigners, which led to an all time low of foreigners buying private homes. This brings us to our next point.
5. Resale HDB Flat Prices at All-time High
Thanks to a combination of factors from COVID-19 — BTO delays, homeowners downsizing their houses, more people wanting to move out — the HDB resale market exploded in 2021. HDB resale prices reached a record high of 12.5% for the whole 2021, the highest in a decade.
This led to the government introducing cooling measures in December 2021. Experts believe these measures will see a slow down of home sales and affect the en bloc market.
We’ll have to wait one to two quarters to see if these cooling measures will help curb housing prices.
6. Limited Travel Amidst VTL Launches
The launch of Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) was a welcome move for many of us who have been stuck in Singapore for the past two years and for those based overseas who previously could not return.
But with the opening of VTLs come more processes — pre-departure and on-arrival COVID-19 tests, extra preparation such as insurance and having the right travel documents.
There’s also the uncertainty of ever-changing travel restrictions brought about by fluid COVID-19 situations in different countries.
One thing’s for sure though, Singapore needs to open its economy and these extra measures and preparation are just part of the new normal we have to adapt to.
7. Getting in on the Indoor Plant and Home Gardening Trend
It seems like everyone became a gardener during the circuit breaker period. Nurseries, plant and seed suppliers saw increased sales since the outbreak as people grew their own herbs, microgreens and plants at home.
It also appears that more people were growing edible plants as people became aware of Singapore’s food security situation amidst supermarkets selling out and border closures.
NParks also initiated a Gardening with Edibles programme where seed packets of edible plants were sent to those interested in growing greens at home.
Thanks to the increased interest, some of us may have discovered our talent for green thumbs.
8. Sustainable Living on the Radar
Although not directly related to COVID, one change over the past couple of years was that more Singaporeans are caring more about sustainable living. With lockdowns all over the world, climate change was once again thrown into the spotlight as many reports showed how the planet was ‘recovering’ while we stayed at home. In our recent Consumer Sentiment Study, as many as 82% said they might pay more for a sustainable home, with energy saving and smart cooling features as top priorities.
The benefits of sustainable living are plenty, not only to make it better for the already hot planet, but also give us cost savings in the long run.
It’s time to move towards a greener and brighter future. Check out green electricity providers, eco-friendly home renovation tips, and how to make your bathroom more eco-friendly.
9. Heightened Importance of Mental Health
Previously not something discussed openly, mental health and wellbeing has become an increased topic since the pandemic struck. Although some naysayers will say it’s too late, at least Singapore is taking some action at a national level, developing a national strategy to manage mental health and calling for normalisation of mental health screening.
What’s more heartening is that In the community, a wealth of resources and support have sprung up among everyday folks. We’re positive this is a shift to a more compassionate society and something that will stay the course.
Adapting to the New Normal with COVID-19
It’s clear that some changes will be here to stay, from increased travel restrictions and fluid border situations, to mental health discussions and sustainable living.
There will be uncertainty and new challenges to deal with that we can never be fully prepared for. Our main takeaway is that we can choose how we respond to challenges and what we can learn from every experience.
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This article was written by Audrey A.. She can’t wait to move into her own place so she can finally get a cat (or two) and an espresso machine to fuel her love for flat whites. For now, she’s saving up and dreaming of her next trip.
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