Singapore coronavirus supermarket
People stand behind markers as they practice social distancing at a supermarket in Singapore, where a near-lockdown will be enforced from next week. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: When Abbas Ali Baig, the charismatic Indian cricketing legend, and his wife flew to Singapore to spend some time with their son and his family in early March, he didn’t expect that the coronavirus pandemic could lead to a lockdown back in India. Like thousands of expats, the 81-year-old is now stranded in the city-state.

The situation hasn’t got any easier for Baig, now 81, with Singapore announcing a near-total lockdown for a month from Tuesday. ‘’Yes, we will have to stay back here - don’t know for how long - till the situation eases a bit and the flight servies are resumed. At my age, I can’t take any chances,’’ the octogenarian told Gulf News over phone from Singapore.

The near-total lockdown, according to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, will however start from Tuesday – with people told to stay at home and most workplaces ordered to close, while all schools and universities will switch to home-based learning after an alarming increase in unlinked local cases.

During the past few weeks, me and my wife were going around for a little walk towards the evening but now we will have to put a stop to it

- Abbas Ali Baig

‘’From what I gather, the administration will be doing it in a phased manner and the essential services will remain available. During the past few weeks, me and my wife were going around for a little walk towards the evening but now we will have to put a stop to it,’’ said Baig, who was a contemporary and close friend of Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, the legendary Indian captain.

Tracking the affairs of India which is grappling to fight the outbreak with a three-week lockdown on television, Baig sounded concerned with the flow of migrant labourers back and forth across the states. ‘’As this rate, the situation will get out of control there. We have to contain this as social distancing cannot just be a manner of speaking,’’ he said.

As the COVID-19 grew to be a pandemic, Singapore was one of the countries whose efforts to contain the virus with a systematic tracking system had won international praise and they have now stepped up their efforts as the cases rose to 1,114 on Friday with five deaths.

While Baig plans to bide his time till the crisis blows over, two of his peers in Indian cricket – Abid Ali and Farookh Engineer are residents of the US and England, respectively and are apprehensive as people of their age-group are particularly vulnerable against the virus.

Former allrounder Ali, now 79, stays with his daughter at a smaller town adjacent to California and San Jose while Engineer, 82, had been a longtime resident of Manchester in north England. The latter, a dashing wicketkeeper-batsman who plied his trade for Lancashire County once, showed he hadn’t lost his customary sense of humour in a recent interview.

‘’I have been as cautious as I can be as I don’t even get down from the car when I drive my wife to the local supermarket and she does all the shopping. My only wish is I shouldn’t go without receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indian cricket board,’’ said a tongue-in-cheek Engineer.