Help for seniors who struggle to cope with Covid-19 rules
Volunteers, self-help groups assist in tasks like using ART kits and making grocery runs
When Mr Zeng, 63, finally got hold of someone on the phone line who was able to help, he was on day eight of an isolation order and had run out of food at home.
Crying over the phone, the senior who lives alone in the western part of Singapore told volunteers from social enterprise SG Assist that he had been surviving on canned food for eight days.
By then, Mr Zeng, who works in cleaning services, no longer had any rations left.
Seniors like him face many challenges trying to abide by Covid-19 regulations, even as the Government has simplified the rules.
The latest guidelines announced on Saturday said home recovery will be the default arrangement for everyone except partially vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals aged 50 and above, vaccinated seniors aged 80 and above, and children four years and below.
Seniors who are at risk of developing severe illness can recover in Covid-19 treatment facilities which have the medical capabilities and resources, including oxygen supplementation for patients in need.
Such seniors do not have to worry about keeping up with the changing criteria for the home recovery programme. But they, like the rest of the population, will still need to use antigen rapid test (ART) kits, which now form the bedrock of the Republic's Covid-19 strategy.
If they receive a message from the Ministry of Health (MOH) that they are a close contact of a confirmed case, they are required by law to test themselves with an ART kit and upload the results online.
Senior welfare organisations told The Straits Times many seniors do not even have a fixed mobile number registered with MOH, making it impossible for them to receive messages.
To bridge the gap with seniors, SG Assist has phone lines for seniors to seek help.
Such contact numbers can be circulated among the elderly, who often hear of them through word of mouth or share them via WhatsApp.
Referring to Mr Zeng, SG Assist's co-founder, Mr Adrian Tan, explained why such hotlines are necessary: "The senior can't take care of himself because he has no family support after his wife died. He doesn't know how to buy groceries online and was scared he would be fined if he left his flat."
Once SG Assist learns of such seniors, they will put up a request for volunteers to make grocery runs on the SG Assist mobile app.
The People's Association (PA) has also put up posters in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, so residents in need know they can be delivered ration packs and meals.
Over in Tampines North, volunteers have also been distributing care packs since Oct 3 to those under the home recovery programme or under quarantine.
PA said that as at Oct 6, some 1,600 staff and volunteers distributed 8,800 care packs to households with residents on the home recovery programme or quarantine order.
Ms Fion Phua, founder of volunteer platform Keeping Hope Alive, has been going door to door to swab seniors living in rental Housing Board flats every Sunday and sharing more about vaccination.
Ms Phua said: "These seniors do not know how to use ART kits and don't have Wi-Fi at home. Some still don't know you can walk into a community centre and get the Covid-19 vaccine."