This is the way we break the circuit: S'poreans cope with stricter Covid-19 measures

PHOTOS: COURTESY OF BERNARD CHIANG, COURTESY OF CONSTANCE LIEN, COURTESY OF DEDRIC WONG, COURTESY OF B. THIRUKARTHIK

Schools are closed, most workplaces are shut and people have been urged to stay home as stricter measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 kicked in last week. The Sunday Times finds out how Singaporeans are coping as the month-long circuit breaker period, which began on April 7 and lasts till May 4, enters its second week.


Windows down when passengers cough

Before Covid-19 struck Singapore, cabby Ho Eng Keey would usually pick up about 20 fares a day, from 8am to 10pm. He has cut his working hours by half - spending late mornings and afternoons at home. PHOTO: COURTESY OF HO ENG KEEY

Taxi driver Ho Eng Keey, 51, has seen better times.

"I drove only five people today. Sad, isn't it?" the cabby of more than 20 years told The Sunday Times in Mandarin last Thursday.

Before Covid-19 struck Singapore, he would usually pick up about 20 fares a day, while plying the streets from 8am to 10pm. Now that customers are few and far between, he has cut his working hours by half - spending the late mornings and afternoons at home.

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Many things on his plate, but not just work

Since the circuit breaker measures began, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Home Affairs Amrin Amin has been whipping up dishes to relax, even as he is kept busy helping his constituents from home. PHOTO: AMRIN AMIN

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Home Affairs Amrin Amin, 41, has many things on his plate - in more ways than one.

Exploring recipes in the kitchen - crayfish pasta, belacan fried brown rice - has been a way for him to relax since the circuit breaker began. "It takes your mind off work a little bit," said Mr Amrin, who is also an MP for Sembawang GRC.

While being at home has its perks, like spending more time with his one-year-old daughter, he misses the physical interaction his job typically involves. "Nothing beats being on the ground," said Mr Amrin, who has suspended home visits and in-person Meet-the-People Sessions. "It's very different - seeing people face to face, giving people a hug, shaking hands, offering people tissue. That warmth is something we cannot fully recreate online."

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Launching online art exhibition

Ms Yeo Shih Yun will be keeping in touch with fellow artists via Google Hangouts and WhatsApp, and is also looking for software that will allow her to draw and collaborate with other artists live. PHOTO: COURTESY OF YEO SHIH YUN

Artist Yeo Shih Yun has organised an online exhibition that holds up a mirror to these isolating times.

Titled 14-days Stay Home Notice, it features works by 14 artists from countries such as Singapore, Japan and the United States. It will launch on Artsy.net tomorrow and is put together by independent arts space Instinc, which Ms Yeo, 43, founded in 2004.

Works on display range from Yeo's Ugly Mee, a print inspired by panic-buying in supermarkets, to Great Leap Forward, a limited print on archival work by American artist Michael Amter.

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Painting at home, studying family history

Mr Bernard Chiang (seated) with volunteers from the Braddell Heights Zone B Residents' Committee and Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle during the reusable mask distribution. PHOTO: COURTESY OF BERNARD CHIANG

With his florist shop closed during the circuit breaker period, Mr Bernard Chiang spends his days distributing masks to those in his community.

The 69-year-old, who is the vice-chairman of the Braddell Heights Zone B Residents' Committee, helps to organise and give out reusable masks provided by the Government to all households.

After the mask distribution ends today, Mr Chiang plans to spend time on his own hobbies.

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Jiu-jitsu champion trains at home

Jiu-jitsu athlete Constance Lien does at least one high-intensity workout every day - spending about 20 minutes on exercises such as burpees and jumping jacks. PHOTO: COURTESY OF CONSTANCE LIEN

Martial arts champion Constance Lien, 20, is in her element when she locks, wrenches and chokes her opponent on a rubber mat.

Now that tighter safe distancing measures have come into force, the jiu-jitsu athlete says she misses sparring with a partner - but she is looking on the bright side and making up for it with other forms of training at home.

She does at least one high-intensity workout every day - spending about 20 minutes on exercises such as burpees and jumping jacks.

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Conductor doesn't let the music stop

Ding Yi Music Company's assistant conductor Dedric Wong at home with his four-year-old nephew Alexander Bristow. On his laptop screen is an online group chat with fellow musicians. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DEDRIC WONG

It has been a while since Ding Yi Music Company's assistant conductor Dedric Wong, 33, last stepped on stage - but even a pandemic cannot stop the music.

Three times a week, Mr Wong and musicians from the Chinese chamber group conduct individual practice sessions together on WeChat from their various homes.

The performers - whose instruments range from guzheng to erhu and pipa - rehearse scales and etudes at their own pace, while Mr Wong listens in and offers feedback, for instance by correcting their intonation. To help the musicians get back to basics and hone their skills, he sets them weekly assignments and they send him a recording of themselves playing each week.

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Missing his friends but not exams

Undergraduate B. Thirukarthik is missing out on meals with his friends, so on weekends, he gets together with them online to play computer games. PHOTO: COURTESY OF B. THIRUKARTHIK

Home is a little cosier than school, but undergraduate B. Thirukarthik said he misses school now, after several weeks away from it.

The 23-year-old second-year computer science student at Nanyang Technological University has not been to campus since more than two weeks ago, when he met up with friends to discuss a group project.

His lectures have moved online, and his tests and exams have been converted into assignments.

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Even busier with online tuition classes

Mr Kelvin Sim thought his students "might drift off a bit with this online platform, but they have been very enthusiastic and have taken part in discussions actively". PHOTO: COURTESY OF KELVIN SIM

Moving his tuition classes online has made his daily schedule busier than before, said Mr Kelvin Sim, founder of Thinkel Learning Lab.

As it is more difficult to manage a larger online class, each tuition session has been split into groups of three to five students, down from about 10 previously.

"It has been quite an interesting experience. The older students are more on the ball while managing the younger ones is more of a challenge. Usually we can look at our students to see how they are doing and push them along, but that is now harder online when you can only see their small faces on the computer," said Mr Sim, 45.

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