People-perception during COVID-19 outbreak

It was in December 2019 that China reported coronavirus infection (COVID-19) in humans. We did not take it as a death threat until the WHO declared COVID-19 infection a pandemic. The viral infection turned into a public health emergency of international concern.  That’s when people began to rethink about the adversities of the deadly virus. 

As the numbers of infected people and casualties started rising on a daily basis, public perception and opinion started to change. The realization dawned upon us that coronavirus is here to stay. And this instigated a widespread support for preventive measures. 

By the end of February, coronavirus news spread like wild fire on social media with millions of posts. Unfortunately several fake news and messages began to circulate. And it became difficult to sieve reliable information from fake.  For the common man or woman, this was confusing. The outcome was panic, frustration and depression. 

Governments imposed lockdowns in many countries. With the lockdowns running for over three months, there was a mixed bag of repercussions. The outcome was psychological issues coupled with layoffs and financial impacts, leading to a fall in global economy.   

Lockdown in India brought about a huge migrant worker crisis, when thousands were forced to return to their hometowns because of the pandemic. They lost their jobs and faced poverty. Some walked their way home and others got on trains and buses. Going home was a priority for them. Today, they are again on the brink of another crisis and want to get back to the city in search of work. Earning money has become a priority for survival. The pandemic has not just affected the poor but has also made a hole in the pockets of middle-class families.

In India, over 1.7 million people are affected with the coronavirus infection. Maharashtra state has the highest number of COVID-19 cases. Mumbai city in Maharashtra alone has recorded maximum number of cases. Several state governments have declared an extended lockdown to flatten the COVID-19 curve and are preparing to handle the increasing number of suspected cases, positive cases and severe cases. This sort of containment has divided opinions amongst the public. Worried people are supporting the stringent measures. There are others who support the less containment actions: let everyone be exposed to the virus and it will be the survival of the fittest, following Darwin’s theory. Antibodies would develop in exposed individuals. 

Across the world, places where lockdowns are eased; stores have opened up, people have joined services. Beaches and parks are open for public. Joggers, walkers and cyclists are a common sight in the parks. Unfortunately, there are lapses in preventive measures. Many have stopped wearing masks and keeping a safe distance.

In India too, lockdown has been eased in a few states. Here, people’s perception regarding preventive measures varies. In a place where there is an extended lockdown, some laxity in sticking to the rules is observed.  Yet, there is an awareness regarding the spread of the virus amongst people, which compels them to don masks, wash or sanitize hands and keep a safe distance. 

To cope up with the ‘new’ normal, people are learning to explore and understand digital and online concepts. E-business is soaring, with citizens ordering goods and services online. People work from home. Students are into online learning. Scientific ideas are exchanged through webinars and video conferencing. People have learned to entertain themselves using social media and video chats. Video consultation in healthcare sector is becoming popular. 

COVID-19 has taken its toll on people’s mental and physical health. There is an inert fear amongst the masses. People’s patience is dwindling. It is unfortunate that India sees a sharp decline in optimism. Depression is creeping in since returning to the ‘old’ normal seems a remote possibility. Coronavirus infection, a stressor with economic and health concerns, is here to stay. Remdesivir, tocilizumab, dexamethasone etc, are being used as treatment drugs for coronavirus positive cases. These help curb the symptoms and control the complications arising from the viral infection. A vaccine for coronavirus is in the making and hopefully it should be with us soon. Oxford University expert Professor Sunetra Gupta, an epidemiologist, contemplates that the COVID-19 pandemic will end naturally and will become a part of our lives like influenza. Let us be positive and maintain our safety to stay healthy.

Photo: Migrant workers walking back to villages during COVID-19 lockdown in India (NYTimes)

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