Is third wave looming as people drop guard?

There is a possibility that the corona third wave may come as people drop guard regarding Covid-19 safeguards. This development is all the more serious as India enters the festival  season. A survey done by a digital community-based platform, LocalCircles, has found that only 13 per cent people rated mask compliance in their area and district as effective while just 6 per cent termed social distancing norms as beneficial.

The digital community-based platform LocalCircles in its survey measured basic Covid-19 safeguards and came up with findings which are an eye opener. The survey says third wave may come as people drop guard for Covid-19 rules and that too during the festival season of Dusherra and Diwali.   

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Complacency sets in as people drop guard

The survey findings reveal that as people drop guard, it is quite obvious that complacency has set in among country’s residents.

LocalCircles received 65,000 responses from citizens residing in 366 districts of India. The survey revealed how people were complying to mask and social distancing protocols in cities and districts, while travelling in flights/airports, trains/railway stations and bus/bus stands as well as places like vaccination centres which many have visited in the last few months.

Sixty-four per cent were men and 36 per cent respondents were women. Forty-six per cent respondents were from Tier-1 areas, 29 per cent from Tier-2 areas, and 25 per cent from Tiers-3, 4 and rural districts. A previous LocalCircles survey from June 2021, which was shared by the Union Ministry of Health in its briefing on July 6 this year, had indicated that mask compliance was rated as effective by 29 per cent people then and social distancing compliance as effective by 11 per cent.

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The survey revealed that as people drop guard, they are getting more prone to catching the infection. The drop in mask compliance ratings from 29 to 13 per cent and in social distancing compliance ratings from 11 per cent to 6 per cent indicates that complacency has set in with many now believing that Covid-19 is gone. This was stated by Sachin Taparia, founder of LocalCircles.

With 2021 festive season already on and likely to see significantly higher levels of socialising, shopping and community events, the risk of Covid cases rising is now high, he warned. He also warned that as people drop guard, this complacency was not in anyone’s interest.  

Current travel euphoria strong

The travel euphoria currently is stronger than the one LocalCircles reported in February-March this year. Taparia said in the earlier months of 2021, people were cautious and did not drop guard.

LocalCircles on March 23, 2021 had raised the red flag highlighting the need to enforce mask and social distancing compliance and implement movement restrictions or lock down at the earliest when its “citizen pulse trackers” indicated high levels of risk.

On the mask front in the latest survey, just 13 per cent respondents said that more than 90 per cent people in their area, district or city are compliant and only 30 per cent respondents termed mask compliance as effective during travel at airports, stations, bus stands, etc. On the bright side, the survey showed that mask compliance levels were higher in vaccination centres as 61 per cent of citizens said it was effective when they visited the places in the last two months.

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Regarding social distancing norms, just 6 per cent respondents said compliance levels are effective in their area, district or city. The survey respondents also said the top indoor locations where they have observed low social distancing compliance were vaccination centres, trains, buses, malls and indoor shopping complexes. So, while mask compliance at vaccination centres is somewhat working, social distancing compliance isn’t effective. On the social distancing front, the survey found that people drop guard as and when they feel like.

Forty-per cent of the survey respondents said shopping markets were the top outdoor location where social distancing compliance wasn’t working. The report also suggested that the Central government, state governments and district administrations must ensure that clear guidelines are formed and enforced for community gatherings and compliance to masking and social distancing norms.

Special focus is needed on awareness creation and ensuring compliance in Tier-3, 4 towns and rural districts where some cases of the citizen feedback received showed that compliance is at near-zero levels.

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