India Sees Heavy Trends Of ‘Social Irresponsibility’: Decoding ‘No Mask-No Distancing’ Public Recklessness

India is seeing heavy Trends of ‘Social Irresponsibility’, with reckless behavior of people crowding into markets, public places and holiday destinations when the second wave of COVID-19 is barely over and a third one quite likely, but what is driving this behavior?

This is the same question that the experts are also wondering. Senior epidemiologist Lalit Kant it’s a combination of apathy and a certain fatalistic attitude.

Attempting to decode the ‘no mask-no social distancing’ carelessness underlining societal behaviour, psychiatrist Nimish Desai added that the public is unable to see the risks and relate the restrictions on them. India, Desai said, has seen “heavy trends of social irresponsibility”.

There have been concerns that has increased after images on social and other media of snaking queues of cars waiting to enter hill stations. People are so anxious to get their lives back on track that basic precautions have been given the go by as they throng vacation spots and leisure sites.

Desai, director of the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences, told PTI, “In all cultures what should have happened is what is called risk perception — how much does a society perceive the threat (to be) and how much does it modify its behaviour accordingly.”

Experts say the role of a society in in controlling or blowing a contagion cannot be overlooked while the pandemic is primarily a health crisis.

Desai, referring to the peak of the first wave during the festive season last year said, “The public in their conscious or unconscious minds could not see and correlate the restrictions on them….”

He said, during the festive seasons around Diwali-Durga people seemed to be over compensating for the time they spent confined in their homes. This unlock doesn’t seem very different.

As India’s Covid numbers declines which is comforting and seems that the situation is returning to normalcy but the recent pictures on internet of people not following basic Covid-19 protocols are also increasing the fear gradually.

Kant, former head of the Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases Division at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), told PTI,“People’s compliance to guidance for adopting Covid appropriate behavour has influenced the course the pandemic would take – slowing or accelerating it.”

According to the senior epidemiologist, the non-adoption of Covid appropriate behaviour (CAB) is part of the reason for the second wave. Masking and social distancing already seems a thing of the past and double masks are on their way out, as single ones resume their ‘chin position’.

The Union Health Ministry has said that India’s Covid death toll crossed the four-lakh mark earlier this month. Nearly 60 per cent of this was during the second wave.

“To my mind it is general apathy. It is not that they are against it, they understand that it is important, but they just don’t care. “People have developed a fatalistic attitude where they believe that anything can happen. They think, ‘there’s no medicine, no beds in the hospitals, what are we alive for?’ And when you get that kind of an attitude, you stop taking precautions,” he said.

Trying to understand why it is difficult for people to do the basic of wearing masks properly, maintaining hand hygiene or just keeping distance, Kant said a fatalistic attitude discourages them from considering “non-pharmaceutical interventions”.

“Studies have shown that extraverts are especially prone to defying short term instructions or regulations exhibiting perhaps more counter-compliant behaviour.”

According to Delhi government data, for example, over 87,000 people were fined in a matter of three weeks last month. Hence the increasing number of coronavirus cases are taking place because of Indians violating Covid norms seems to bear his assertion out.

“Sustained mass level behaviour change is difficult but also not impossible,” Desai explained.

“In the last two decades, developed countries have somewhat understood that every individual’s health status depends on their lifestyle and behaviour. This itself was lacking in our society. Now the realisation in the world community is and should be that our collective health status depends on our collective behaviour,” Desai said.

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