In a country where business and busy-ness is ubiquitous, the concept of empty spaces seems alien - one that has taken Singaporeans some time to adjust to. Like clockwork, crowds flock to malls, workers troop to work, students trudge to school, old people head out to sit in parks and void decks to socialise and play chess. Singapore never truly goes to sleep. When one part rests, another rouses and a quiet buzz slowly builds into a din.
Now, Singapore deals with a new reality.
On Apr 3, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced significantly stricter measures to curb the COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore. He likened this to a “circuit breaker”.
Public gatherings and dining out are prohibited during the circuit-breaker period from Apr 7 to May 4. Most workplaces are closed, with exemptions made for essential services and key economic sectors. School is suspended and students across all levels - from primary school to universities - have to embrace full home-based learning.
An empty Central Business District. A row of idling taxis along a stretch of pubs. Streets and streets of shuttered shops. Such sights remind us of the challenges we face and the scale of effort and cooperation needed to bring Singapore back to normal.
This is life under the circuit breaker.
Almost always throbbing with hundreds of commuters from the time train services start running in the morning, City Hall MRT station - an interchange and artery for the MRT system - is largely bereft of human traffic. (Photo: Jeremy Long)
This stretch along the Singapore River has seen busier days. Central Business District workers usually take a break here during working hours, but it’s currently more suited for basketball practice. (Photo: Jeremy Long)
Banners scream of good deals, but there is now silence along the warren of shops at Bugis Street market. The market is often filled with tourists and bargain-hunting locals looking for street food, mobile phone accessories and clothes. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)
A lone passerby walks past a street of shuttered shops in the sweltering afternoon heat in Chinatown. (Photo: Jeremy Long)
It is all quiet at Changi Airport - no check-ins, nothing to check out. With Singapore’s borders sealed to short-term visitors, the huge departure halls are almost silent. (Photo: Jeremy Long)
A Lau Pa Sat stall attendant takes a nap during lunchtime. The food centre in the Central Business District is normally swarmed by office workers. (Photo: Jeremy Long)
A lone cyclist rides along the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade in the afternoon. This stretch is normally popular with tourists seeking a photo of the cityscape. (Photo: Jeremy Long)
The lights stay on along Marina Bay waterfront on day one of the circuit breaker even as many workplaces temporarily close their doors.(Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)
It is not just wet weather that has emptied the streets at rush hour on the first day of the circuit-breaker period along South Bridge Road. (Photo: Jeremy Long)
A row of idling taxis wait for passengers - an unusual sight on a rainy day. (Photo: Jeremy Long)
The night is still young, but there’s no revelling, no partying, no drinking and no happy hour at Clarke Quay. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)
Advertisements used to blare from a row of monitors flanking the passage to the basement of ION Orchard mall. Now it is just the whirr of escalators that can be heard. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)
Orchard Road, Singapore’s busy shopping belt, is now deserted because all retail stores save those providing essential services and goods, have been ordered to close. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)
Shadows fall on Mustafa Centre which used to be crowded at all times of the day as it operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The mall in Little India has been identified as a COVID-19 cluster and was shut for disinfection well before the circuit breaker kicked in. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)
An Ang Mo Kio hawker centre stands eerily quiet in the mid-day. Eateries are allowed to stay open, but customers are only allowed to take away food. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)
An area where old men used to gather to play chess is cordoned off. (Photo: Jeremy Long)
Visual journalists: Jeremy Long, Marcus Mark Ramos
Journalist: Matthew Mohan | Web design: Nurul Huda Zubir