As India prepares for the festival season, a study conducted by a digital community-based platform that examined fundamental COVID-19 safeguards showed that only 13 per cent of respondents thought mask compliance in their neighbourhood and district was effective and only 6 per cent thought social distance norms were good.
The survey by LocalCircles, which received 65,000 responses from citizens residing in 366 districts of India, found out 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 6th July 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.
"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," said 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.
The travel euphoria currently is stronger than the one LocalCircles reported in February-March this year, Taparia said.
LocalCircles on March 23 this year had raised the red flag highlighting the need to enforce mask and social distancing compliance and implement movement restrictions or lockdown 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 vaccination centres as 61 per cent of citizens said it was effective when they visited the places in the last two months.
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.
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.