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Reflections from a tiny island during a crisis

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So, here we are, back to the lockdown mode again, where we are told to WFH (work from home), with no dining in, gyms closed, and basically the same gloomy climate all over again like a bad dream or time loop. Looks like my inner chef, and my weekend artist, have to come to the fore again. Cooped up in a small tiny island in a tiny abode or office, which is the norm, what did I learn as the proverbial ronin?

1) Lockdowns and reality

A recent research showed that NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions) such as lockdowns, while maybe according some tiny benefits, do not work for restricting case growth (sources: Wiley & AIER). It is not difficult to see where draconian lockdown were tried, and failed – just look around ASEAN, including Singapore. Viruses are unlike bacteria or fungi. They can lay dormant for days on certain surfaces (polished surfaces such as luggage, devices, etc), and hours on others (paper, fabric, etc). It is IMPOSSIBLE to eradicate the presence of such pathogens, just as flu, common cold, which are coronavirus cousins to SARS-CoV-2 causing COVID19. Conversely, Taiwan having no lockdowns did not escalate into hell, with merely over a thousand cases (most of whom recovered) and less than 20 deaths.

2) Mathematical, just projections

As British statistician George Box would say, “all models are wrong” (1976). They are at best approximations, and at worst, abominations. Experts and laypeople fared equally badly at “predicting” anything, even with AI thrown into the fray.

3) Endemic, not pandemic

Increasingly, scientists believe the SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay, just as its cousins causing flu and common cold do. In short, it is an endemic, which comes and goes but stay around us forever. As such, lockdowns, WFH, “social distancing”, and draconian contact tracing measures, will increasingly look meaningless.

4) “Bubbles” burst

The so-called “travel bubbles”, given its name, are expected to burst if nations cannot move forward and out of the “zero infection” mentality. Already, many travel bubbles were discussed and then suspended or hanging in the balance. In April 2021, SG-HK “Bubble” was slated to go on no matter what ( Now, with community cases higher than the specified maximum, the bubble looks set to burst (

5) Fear beyond reality

Given that many advanced states or locales have sufficient medical care capabilities, the availability of vaccines, it is baffling why then, despite having STILL manageable situations, some of these locales, such as here, would choose to go towards lockdown mode all over again. The relentless pursuit of the “zero infection” as default, is an impossibility that needs to be sunk into everyone’s minds, not just people who “got it”, but especially those occupying leadership positions. Otherwise, these locales will find themselves in an impossible sad vicious loop.

6) The world is opening up

Not all of the world has gone berserk in vicious loops though. The European Union (EU), having gone through a horrendous 2020, is acknowledging the dire need to move forward, and to courageously go forward. Likewise, America, has its CDC said that those vaccinated have a free pass to move around without masks. It is simple risk assessment and management. Look at the cases per million, and manage that within medical care capacity. Not rocket science.

7) Plans B and C

While some folks have been drumming the war cries of automation, AI, coding, and all things digital, they forgot that many in the real world have no access to these, and even if they do, they will start at the bottom playing an impossible catch-up against those who have been doing these expert fields since their teens. Nothing is impossible, yes, but it is akin to starting 200 meters behind an Olympic sprinter for the ultra-short 100m sprint. So, if you are in a heavily decimated vocation or industry, such as aviation, food and beverage (F&B), hospitality, personal services, retail and distribution, etc, consider finding a Plan B, and a Plan C, as Plan B may not pan out also. This mindset applies to you whether you are running your own outfit, or working for somebody else. Coding is great especially if you love numbers and logic, and can pick up programming languages quickly. However, do know that just because you have gone through Python 101, does not make you an expert or will land you a cushy high-paying job. Set goals and expectations right and you won’t be sorely devastated. This is also the time, if you are heavily leveraged, to quickly talk to your bank(s) on restructuring payment plans and options, or to liquidate if at all possible. Cut losses if you must, rather than straddle yourself with a burden you don’t need on top of the burdens you already shoulder because of the situation. If where you are at now is restrictive and not helping in terms of business, you may also need to consider options to get out, since WFH has become much of the norm for remote working and you can harness more talents around the world. Having government subsidies will never be a “plan”, but a stop-gap measure. You need to have a real plan that assures you of livelihood and sustainability. This article has some brief ideas about having alternative plans.

Storms do pass

Yes, this storm will pass. Some of us are made of sterner stuff and are capable of agility and mobility. It is this dire climate of uncertainty that may be the right time for us also to think beyond our needs, and reflect on what can be done for some others. If at least, we should raise our concerns.