Even as rising virus cases put India’s caseload at 5th highest in the world, the country is slowly opening up. The objective of Unlock 1 is to get the wheels of the economy running, while also making Indians learn to live with the reality of the virus in the near future. However, that doesn’t mean the virus threat has disappeared
The intricacies and logic of whether the lockdown should be opened up at a time when almost daily cases are reaching a new peak have long been debated. Frankly, the debate will continue in the near future as well, as Indians look for solutions to deal with an unprecedented situation.
The current situation represents something of a catch 22 for Indians. Stay at home and see the economy crumble as it comes to a crashing halt, or go outside in search of work that puts you up with the imminent threat of contracting the virus.
There’s no correct answer to what needs to be done, and different Indians have different expectations and needs to fulfil. While some can afford to work from home and sustain themselves during this period of uncertainty, others have no option but to venture out to make sure there’s food on the table for their families.
However, as Unlock 1 gets enforced, several pictures and sights from all over the country indicate that a large set of Indians may be giving up on the virus.
A Lot Of Indians Are Out In Public Places
Recently, a series of pictures and videos from Mumbai’s iconic Marine Drive went viral on social media. It showed thousands of Indians occupying the scenic spot, jogging, walking and just wandering around in the city.
While many of them were wearing masks and taking precautions, it is extremely difficult to fathom how social distancing can take place in a city as densely populated as Mumbai, that too in the narrow stretch of the marine drive.
Getting out for work or essential is one thing. Going out in a city for leisure which has the largest caseload out of any other city in the country, and has 99% of its ICU beds occupied, is another.
Similarly, visuals are aplenty which show roads clogged with cars and traffic jams once again, as soon as the restrictions were lifted. Does it really make sense for people to venture out during a pandemic?
A Second Wave Of The Virus May Be Coming
Another thing that is happening around us is that Indians are getting complacent when it comes to the virus. In their eagerness to get back to their normal lives and to get the economy opened up, Indians are seeing the lifting of the lockdown as a victory against the virus. It is anything but that.
Subsequent waves are common knowledge when it comes to a pandemic. Even during the Spanish Flu of 1918, the second and third waves proved to be much deadlier than the first one, killings thousands of people.
Serval reports have even stated how the country may be due for a second wave of the virus when the monsoon hits the country. This assumption, combined with the fact that this is precisely the time the country is being opened up could be a recipe for disaster.
Already reports are coming of people not taking the virus seriously. A Nodal Officer from Chennai speaking to Indian Express revealed that people are relaxing when it comes to safety precautions. As many as 25% of the people living in containment zones aren’t wearing masks, according to him.
Behavioural Fatigue Amongst People May Be Causing People To Give Up On The Virus Threat
Scientists all over the globe have referred to the concept of “behavioural fatigue” when trying to explain the actions of people. Understanding this phenomenon helps in understanding the actions of Indians as well.
While there is no clear definition of behavioural fatigue, a group of scientists in the UK explained it in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. They said that if lockdowns and restrictions are imposed too early and for a considerable period, it could lead to people growing tired of bans and ceasing to comply with them. This can be particularly dangerous if this occurs before the actual peak of the pandemic.
In simple words, there is only a certain point of time when people will abide by social distancing, continuously wash and sanitize their hands, and wear masks when they venture outside. Ask them to do this forever, and after a time they’ll just get bored and become complacent.
This is precisely what is happening amongst Indians as well. Consider your example. Do you wash hands as frequently as you did when the outbreak first started? Or are you still washing and disinfecting surfaces with the same intensity as you used to do before? The answer will probably be no.
Thus, while the opening up of the lockdown may feel like a victory, it is anything but that. A major virus surge has been reported in as many as 24 states and union territories, with cases growing at a faster rate than the national average. The fight is long, and till the time the end is near it is important to follow all safety precautions and practice social distancing. Venture out if only necessary, and if you see other Indians taking the virus threat lightly and thinking we’ve overcome the pandemic, remind them that that’s not the case at all.