Photo/Illutration Few people are seen in the capital’s Ginza district on March 28 as Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike asked people to refrain from going out over the weekend. (The Asahi Shimbun)

“The Martian,” a science fiction novel written by Andy Weir, depicts the life of an astronaut stranded alone on Mars due to an accident.

The protagonist lives in extreme conditions, with virtually everything out of his control.

He faces death once he leaves a small base on the planet. The challenges that confront him include how to live off a limited amount of food and how to obtain water.

The astronaut finds solace in digital books and music left by other crew members. He reads Agatha Christie and listens to the Beatles.

I suppose many people confined to home this weekend felt at loose ends. The scenes of deserted city centers, usually bustling with people, looked straight out of science fiction.

With the new coronavirus forcing people around the world to stay home, the Agence France-Presse news agency asked a real-life astronaut for tips for living better in isolation.

American Scott Kelly, who was engaged in a mission aboard the International Space Station, says people should be ready for “living a similar thing to living in space for a year” with the expectation that the restrictions will be in place “for the long haul.”

He advises people to “have a schedule,” “get up at a regular time” and “sleep at a regular time.”

He probably learned those lessons during his experience in space, where there is no daytime or nighttime.

AFP also sought advice from a former submarine commander.

He says it is important for people to share a “mission,” which is to “protect others, medical workers and successfully navigate this ordeal” by staying home.

It feels as if it were long ago when we heard that “the next one to two weeks are crucial” for containing an explosive growth in coronavirus cases. The battle against the virus is becoming prolonged.

Let each and every one of us do our part to ride out this crisis--without being forced into quarantine as in China or being told that we are in wartime as in Europe.

It is not such a bad thing to search our homes and find books and music that we enjoyed a long time ago.

Unlike on Mars, we can open our windows and doors and breathe in fresh air.

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 29

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.