India becoming complacent against COVID-19: Only 30% citizens rate mask compliance as effective in their area while just 12% citizens rate social distancing compliance as effective


  • ● Reduction in cases has led to masses in tier 2, 3 & 4 towns and rural areas dropping the idea of wearing a mask; social events are back
  • ● Compliance levels relatively higher in metros/tier 1 and tier 2 districts than in tier 3, 4 and rural districts

February 24, 2021, New Delhi: On Sunday, February 21st evening, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray warned that the state would impose a strict lockdown if people did not follow COVID-19 norms for the next eight days. He also announced a complete ban for a few days on all social, religious and political gatherings as well as protests to limit the spread of COVID-19. A spike in the city of Amravati in Maharashtra along with the identification of the most dangerous strain E484K that is known to evade the vaccine and neutralize antibodies was found in the city last week led to a lockdown there and in several other districts. In all of this, Thackeray emphasized that people should continue to follow the Covid norms.

The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak followed by norms issued by State Governments required all to wear a mask when stepping outside their homes and follow social distance compliance to prevent the spread of the virus. With 9 months into the pandemic, post the month of October, cases in India declined exponentially from 75,000 cases a day to 15,000 cases a day in January. As the caseload declined and the COVID-19 vaccination drive began and the Government removed all the lockdown restrictions, people started going back to the pre-Covid lifestyle. Vacation destinations became over-crowded starting November, malls and markets started to see a sizeable increase in footfalls, and even restaurants started to see more customers visiting instead of ordering a takeaway. As this was happening, LocalCircles received many reports from citizens about how masks were not being used in many smaller towns anymore or were on their chin that rarely covered the mouth and the nose. Also, many reports were received about how people in private and public events, and markets rarely followed social distancing compliance, with the majority of them believing that Covid is gone. Many offices, which had implemented work from home, started calling employees from Jan 1 or Feb 1, and schools in many states have resumed for middle and senior class students.

In the question that tried to understand citizens’ experience and observation of people in their area, district or city/location are complying to wearing a mask and following social distancing norms, 16% said “No compliance at all for both social distancing and wearing a mask”, 18% said “No compliance to social distancing but wearing a mask”, 22% said “No compliance to social distancing and limited compliance to wearing a mask”, 2% said “No compliance to wearing mask and limited compliance to social distancing”, and 29% said “limited compliance to both wearing mask and social distancing”. Breaking down the poll, there were also 12% of citizens who said there is a “good compliance to both social distancing and wearing a mask”, while 2% couldn’t say. The findings of the poll that received 8,321 responses indicated that only 30% of citizens as saying that mask compliance is good or effective in their area, district and city/location, while only 12% say social distancing compliance as effective.

India becoming complacent against COVID-19: Only 30% citizens say that mask compliance is good or effective in their area, district or city/location, while only 12% say social distancing compliance is effective

Only 30% citizens say mask compliance is effective in their area, district or city

Wearing a mask is one of the most important COVID-19 precaution measures to reduce the chances of getting infected as it alone stops the virus from entering both the mouth and the nose. In many countries around the world, citizens are upgrading their masks and moving to KN95 or N95 masks, and some are even wearing double basic masks for protection. However, in India the compliance was at 67% in the September 2020 LocalCircles survey where 67% of citizens rated compliance levels as good in their area, a fall to 30% is now at over 100%. Various reasons cited by citizens for not wearing masks included discomfort, no or poor enforcement by most local authorities, and above all the declining caseloads in their area. In summary, only 30% of citizens said that mask compliance by people is effective in their area.

When the data was analyzed based on locations, citizens who said compliance was effective in tier 1 locations was 35% while those who rated it as effective in tier 2 locations was 29% and those who rated it as effective in tier 3, 4, and rural locations was 19%. This indicates that the mask compliance is going down from metros to urban to semi-urban and rural India.

Only 30% citizens say mask compliance is good in their area district or city

Only 30% citizens say mask compliance is good in their area district or city

Only 12% citizens say social distancing compliance is good in their area, district or city/location

Meanwhile, there is also a sense of weariness of pandemic setting off for most citizens as the Government relaxed all lockdown restrictions. People have started moving freely, meeting relatives and friends, going to workplaces, visiting malls and markets, attending weddings and social functions, socializing with friends, family and colleagues in restaurants etc., and students have also started attending schools. Although people start their day following social distancing norms, as they arrive for a social event or a restaurant, they tend to remove their masks, sit and dine together, is what many LocalCircles members reported.

If we look out for the aggregate percentage of citizens in the survey to know if social distancing compliance is followed in their area, district or city, 56% feel there is no social distancing compliance, 12% said there is good compliance, while 31% said there is limited compliance. Globally, there are has been many cases on occasions such as Labour Day and Thanksgiving, for instance, in America, UK and Europe where social gathering led to many being affected by Covid, which directly and indirectly took lives of individuals, family member, or colleague who did not even attend the event.

Similar to mask compliance, if the social distancing data is analyzed per responses from citizens who said social distancing compliance was good or effective in tier 1 locations was 15%, while those who rated it as effective in tier 2 locations was at 10%, and those who rated it as effective in tier 3, 4 and rural locations was at 7.5%. This indicated that social distancing compliance level is also a factor of Covid awareness and goes down as one goes from metros to urban, semi-urban and rural India. The strong belief in many tier 4 towns and rural locations is that there is nothing like Covid any more leading to a false perception that life is back to the pre-pandemic era.

Only 12% citizens say social distancing compliance is good in their area, district or city/location

Only 12% citizens say social distancing compliance is good in their area, district or city/location

With what Maharashtra has started to experience in the last few weeks, and Kerala since Onam, it is clear that the risk of Covid is not over yet. While sero surveys done by the Government have suggested that 25% of Indians may have antibodies, those may not hold good with the mutant strains like the B.1.351, and hence it is critical that there be high levels of vigilance on spikes of any kind across the country to the district level. Also, in states that are seeing even a minor rise week-over-week must sensitize its residents about mask and social distancing compliances and take timely calls on imposing localized restrictions in order to prevent further spread of COVID-19 and its mutant strains.

Survey Demographics

8,000+ responses were received from citizens residing in 238 districts of India. 68% respondents were men while 32% respondents were women. 51% respondents were from tier 1, 28% from tier 2 and 21% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. They survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants are validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.

About LocalCircles

LocalCircles, India’s leading Community Social Media platform enables citizens and small businesses to escalate issues for policy and enforcement interventions and enables Government to make policies that are citizen and small business centric. LocalCircles is also India’s # 1 pollster on issues of governance, public and consumer interest. More about LocalCircles can be found on https://www.localcircles.com

For more queries - media@localcircles.com, +91-8585909866

All content in this report is a copyright of LocalCircles. Any reproduction or redistribution of the graphics or the data therein requires the LocalCircles logo to be carried along with it. In case any violation is observed LocalCircles reserves the right to take legal action.

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