As Singapore goes into a partial lockdown...

APRIL 5 — Singapore has mandated that all non-essential workplaces will transition to work from home and schools will shut from April 8. 

People are now being encouraged only to leave their homes in cases of real necessity.  

We should even refrain from visiting close relatives where possible. Fortunately, restaurants and hawkers centres have been classified as essential services and will remain open.

That’s right, it is official: Access to chicken rice is an essential service.

Jokes aside, these are challenging times.

I am worried about my mother. I find myself telling her to avoid going to the shops, to stay home and perhaps even steer clear of her own children. 

What we know about the virus is constantly evolving. 

My initial position was calm. The data, I told myself, indicated this virus did not have such a high fatality rate and it seemed like it could be contained. Then somehow it leapfrogged from Wuhan to Washington DC and the world changed completely.

Millions of people are being told to stay home. Some cities have gone into complete lockdown while others offer some sense of normalcy with access to supermarkets or parks. 

So now, I vacillate between calm and nervous; how will this affect my loved ones? What does this mean for all our jobs? For our economies?

This is an unprecedented shutdown. The department store Harrod’s in London stayed open throughout World War II but has now closed its doors. What will the world look like when this is all over?

The optimist in me believes we will soon return to normal and I will never take a Friday night at the cinema for granted again. 

However, from now till then we are left with some weeks of a new way of life.

For many people this will be a chance to spend an unprecedented amount of time with their immediate family and in many ways that can be a good thing. 

No cinemas, no clubs, no malls, no jaunts to JB or Phuket; so it is time to really focus on the little things. 

Watching a movie with the family suddenly becomes a highlight or family dinners can be the norm again. You get to dust out your old board games and hobbies.  

As your daily distractions decrease, you end up really having to think about your spare time. Not leaping from one whim to the next but actively thinking about how you’re going to spend the day. 

For me, this has meant reaching out to friends around the world... people I haven’t been in touch with enough. Ironically, modern technology is enabling some very old school behaviour — long chats and games.

Of course I’m not saying that the next few weeks are going to be all parlour games and family dinners. 

For many people, there will be a lot of stress about health and jobs. Some will find themselves forced to spend far more time with abusive and destructive partners. 

Others live alone and may feel completely isolated. The authorities, social services and all of us as friends and neighbours need work to ensure the vulnerable and distressed are looked after.

Still with some modern technology and old school values, lockdown need not be an entirely unpleasant fate and a few weeks of enforced family time might just make us emerge with a slightly better sense of the value of health, home, friends and family. 

After all, the only way to really beat Covid-19 is to not only eliminate the virus but to also use this experience to change ourselves and society for the better.

Here’s to a safe and productive lockdown, everybody.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.