Rising social interactions and risk of 4th COVID wave: 94% families surveyed likely to have 1 or more visitors coming to their homes in the next 30 days
- ● 69% plan to visit family, friends, others during the next 1 month
- ● COVID is known to transmit much more through trusted networks and these social interactions pose a major risk at a time new transmissible variants are circulating
- ● 90% families in March 2021 had indicated that they are likely to have 1 or more visitors at home in the next 30 days
- ● Need of the hour is for Central and State Governments to create awareness and bring mask mandates back if TPR at district level rises
April 20, 2022, New Delhi: The COVID-19 cases in India have started to rise steadily as people have started moving more freely given that all public places are now open, students are back to schools, employees are working from office, people have started socialising among friends, families at home and outdoors. India recorded 2183 new cases of COVID with the daily test positivity rate (TPR) at 0.83% as on Apr 18th, which is a 90% increase from 1,150 new cases and 0.31% TPR a day back. For instance, Delhi and NCR region is experiencing a major surge with TPR in the national capital rising from 0.7% on April 2nd to 7.7% on April 18th, a 1000% increase. Cities like Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurugram are all experiencing new cases both amongst adults and children. A LocalCircles survey conducted in Delhi NCR region earlier this week, indicated a 500% rise in COVID network prevalence. On Apr 2nd, 3% of respondents had indicated having someone infected with COVID in their close local social network in the last 15 days. The number rose to 19% on Apr 17th. The TPR number of 7.7% for Delhi on Apr 18th validated the rising network prevalence.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised an alarm regarding rising COVID cases globally despite significant drop in testing levels. Many countries in Europe like France, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and those in Asia like Hong Kong, South Korea, Vietnam and China are also experiencing a huge surge in cases. The surges around the world are being driven by BA.2 variants, its sub-lineages like BA.2.2, the Omicron XE mutant, which is a BA.1 and BA.2 recombinant. More transmissible and severe cases of COVID-19 the world over are being studied by scientists. Last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) cautioned that COVID-19 is far from becoming an endemic disease and could still trigger large epidemics around the globe. It recently added BA.4 and BA.5 variants of Omicron to its monitoring list. Scientists have reported that BA.4 has a 63% growth advantage over BA.5 and 84% growth advantage over BA.2. Both BA.4 and BA.5 have the L452R pathogenic mutation, which is also found in the Delta variant. Concerns arise if these sub-variants turn out to be both highly transmissible and severe.
In India, the Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) has reported 16 cases of BA.2+S:I1221T or the BA.2.2 sub-lineage of Omicron, which caused the recent surge in Hong Kong. Further, over 560 cases of Deltacron, a combination of Delta and Omicron variants, have also been reported in India in the last week of March. With 5-6 new variants being found in different parts of the world and all commercial flights to India operational, and complacency among Indians to not wear a mask and follow social distancing rules, the big question many are asking is, what is next and will we see a 4th COVID wave soon? In the recent LocalCircles survey, 9 in 10 surveyed said that most people in their area/district/city are either not carrying a mask anymore, or not wearing it or not wearing it properly basically indicating that the mask compliance percentage in India is in single digit. Globally, most experts have agreed on one thing that COVID is likely to reach us much more through our trusted networks than through people who we do not have long interactions with. To understand the risk more accurately, LocalCircles asked people about their social interaction plans in the next 30 days. This includes understanding what are the different types of people that are likely to visit them at home and who are they likely to visit in the coming month. The survey received more than 20,000 responses from citizens residing in 309 districts of India. 66% respondents were men while 34% respondents were women. 44% respondents were from tier 1, 31% from tier 2 and 25% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts.
94% Indian families will have 1 or more categories of visitors coming to their homes in the next 30 days
With COVID cases reducing in late February, March and April have seen a significant uptick in socialising as well as travel as people started to visit friends and family and have get togethers. It would also be no exaggeration to say that the COVID pandemic has brought levels of alteration in the way businesses deliver their services—especially, eCommerce service providers. Even banks, insurance companies and telecom providers have started bringing their services at consumers’ doorstep. Many households have reduced their outdoor visits for home maintenance and opt for at home services.
The first question in the survey asked citizens about the different categories of people that they expect will visit their homes in the next 30 days. In response, 11% said “(1) family or relatives that don’t stay with us”, 6% said “(2) friends, neighbours, colleagues”, and 25% said “(3) domestic help, service providers, others”. Breaking down the poll, 11% voted for “1 & 2” categories from the aforementioned options, 12% said “2 & 3”, 11% said “1 & 3”, and 18% voted for all “1, 2 & 3” options. Only 6% voted for couldn’t say, or they do not expect anyone from outside to visit them in the next 30 days. On an aggregate basis, 94% of Indian families will have 1 or more categories of visitors coming to their homes in the next 30 days. This question in the survey received 10,835 responses.
Majority Indian households are likely to have service providers, domestic help, and family/relatives visit them in the next 30 days
If responses given by Indian households are aggregated on the basis of priority of their visits, the survey findings indicate that 66% expect “domestic help, service providers, others”, 51% expect “family or relatives that don’t stay with us”, and 47% expect “friends, neighbours, colleagues” to visit their homes in the next 30 days.
69% Indian families plan to visit family, friends, others in the next 30 days
Similarly, the following question sought to understand from Indian households about the different categories of people that they plan to go visit in the next 30 days. In response, 16% said “(1) family or relatives”, 12% said “(2) friends, neighbours, colleagues”, and 3% said “Others”. Breaking down the poll, 13% said they plan to visit “1 & 2” categories of people from the aforementioned options. 3% said “2 & 3”, 4% said “1 & 3”, and 18% said all “1, 2 & 3” options. 31% couldn’t say, or they do not plan to visit anyone in the next 30 days. On an aggregate basis, 64% of Indian families plan to visit family, friends, others in the next 30 days. This question in the survey received 10,125 responses.
Highest percentage of Indian families plan to visit family and relatives followed by visiting friends, neighbours & colleagues in the next 30 days
If responses given by Indian families are aggregated on the basis of their priority of visits, the survey findings indicate that 51% expect “family/relatives” and 46% expect “friends, neighbours, colleagues” while 28% expect “others” to visit their homes in the next 30 days.
To summarise, the findings of the study indicate that nearly all Indian households are likely to have visitors and 7 in 10 are likely to visit family and friends in the next 30 days. With mask and social distancing compliance non-existent at the time more transmissible variant of Omicron has started circulating, the risk of it spreading to a large number of people is very high.
The authorities and public were in a very similar situation in March 2021 when the Delta variant started circulating and 90% households were expecting to have 1 or more visitors coming over. The central government and various state governments became active only in mid-April and by that time the virus had already reached a large number of people to drive its exponential growth.
The need of the hour at this point in time is for people to refrain having social interactions, especially if TPR in their districts/cities is rising and for Central, State and local administrations to create awareness amongst people about rising COVID. The mask mandate which was pre-maturely removed by several states needs to be brought back and enforced once again, especially if district level TPR is rising.
LocalCircles will share the findings of this report with Central and State Government stakeholders so appropriate awareness and actions can be planned to minimize the risk of 4th COVID wave in the coming months.
The survey received more than 20,000 responses from citizens residing in 309 districts of India. 66% respondents were men while 34% respondents were women. 44% respondents were from tier 1, 31% from tier 2 and 25% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.