Despite COVID cases rising across the country, 95% Indians surveyed say mask and social distancing compliance is not happening in their city/district/area
- ● Only 4% of Indians surveyed say mask compliance is effective in their area/district/city
- ● Of those who are wearing masks, 2 in 3 are using cloth masks which provide near zero protection
- ● Despite the risk of COVID, social distancing compliance stays extremely low at area/district/city level
- ● Cases have risen 5x in the last 3 weeks with major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, etc. all seeing a jump
June 16, 2022, New Delhi: In view of the rising cases of COVID-19 across the country, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) last week had to direct all airports to ensure that travellers wear their mask throughout the journey. The average daily reported cases in India are now over 11000, which is a 5-fold jump in cases reported 3 weeks back. The rise in COVID cases is being experienced in over 20 states currently with states like Maharashtra and Kerala leading the surge with reported case loads rising in Delhi as well. Kerala is now reporting a TPR of over 15%. With BA.2.12.1 forming a large part of cases in India and newer Delta-Omicron recombinants like BA.4 and BA.5 also being reported and literally no restrictions and compliance to COVID norms, the risk of spread is once again rising.
Notably, beginning April this year, atleast half of the states in India removed the mask mandate and those that have it are simply not enforcing it. A few weeks thereafter as the daily cases increased in Delhi, the state Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) had to reintroduce the mask mandate for public places. As cases continue to rise across the country, many other states may have to reconsider bringing the mask mandates back soon.
To understand the current situation in regards to mask compliance, LocalCircles has conducted a nationwide survey asking people about compliance levels in their area/district/city. The survey in addition to mask also enquired about social distancing compliance levels. Given that LocalCircles has been the only platform doing mask and social distancing compliance studies through the pandemic, it compared them to past data. The survey received close to 36,000 responses from citizens residing in 346 districts of India. 62% respondents were me while 38% respondents were women. 46% respondents were from tier 1, 30% from tier 2 and 26% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts.
95% Indians surveyed say most in their city/district/area either do not have a mask at all or are not wearing it properly
The first question in the survey asked citizens, “What is the current status of people in regards to maks compliance in your city/district/area?” In response, only 4% of citizens said said “Most have a mask and wear it properly”. The majority, 56% said “Most don’t even have a mask with them now”. Breaking down the poll, 25% said “Most have a mask with them but don’t wear it at all”, 14% said “Most have a mask but don’t wear it properly”. 1% couldn’t say. On an aggregate basis, 95% of Indians say most in their city/district/area either do not have a mask at all or are not wearing it properly. This question in the survey received 12,993 responses.
As reported COVID cases decline, only 4% Indians surveyed now believe mask compliance is effective in their area/district/city
Mask compliance has seen a decline since cases started to decline post the 2nd wave of the pandemic. In a survey conducted by LocalCircles in December 2021, none of the surveyed said people are complying with masking protocol. Then in March 2022 survey, 7% of citizens said people in their area are complying with masking protocol. This percentage in June 2022 declined further to just 4% of citizens now saying people are compliant with wearing a mask.
Of those who are wearing masks, respondents say, 2 in 3 are wearing a cloth maks which provides limited protection from COVID
The Government advisory suggests that double masking, with cloth and surgical masks, can largely prevent the COVID spread. While many types of masks are available since the pandemic started, research also suggests that N-95 provides maximum protection from the virus. It has become more important to wear effective masks since the SARS-COV2 is easily transmissible through the air. Many Indians since 2020 have been using cloth masks, some even using ones made at home, assuming that they provide the necessary protection from COVID-19 while that may not be the case with the new sub-variants of Omicron.
The next question asked citizens, “What kind of mask do you see people in your city/district/area wearing most often?” In response, the majority, 60% of citizens said “Cloth mask”, 21% said “Surgical disposable mask (the blue one)”, 1% said “KN-95 or W-95 mask”, 7% said “N-95 mask”, and 5% said “Others”. 6% couldn’t say. On aggregate, of those who are wearing masks, respondents say 2 in 3 are wearing a cloth mask which provides limited protection from COVID. This question received 11,831 responses.
Only 4% Indians surveyed now say social distancing compliance is effective in their city/district/area
The next question in the survey asked citizens, “With new COVID variants getting identified and cases rising in many other parts of the world, how are people in your city/district/area now complying to social distancing norms?” In response, the majority, 65% of citizens said there’s “No compliance at all”. Breaking down the poll, 25% said “0-30%” people are compliant. 5% said “30-60%”, 1% said “60-90%”, and 4% said “more than 90%” people are compliant. This means that only 4% of Indians surveyed now say social distaning compliance is effective in their city/district/area. This question received 11,823 responses.
Despite the risk of COVID, social distancing compliance stays extremely low at area/district/city level
A similar survey conducted by LocalCircles in April 2021 had indicated 11% of citizens as saying that social distancing compliance is high in their city/district/area. This percentage dropped down to 6% in the July 2021 survey, and has further declined at 4% in June 2022. This means that despite the risk of COVID cases rising once again, social distancing compliance is at extremely low levels at their area/distict/city level.
To summarise, 95% of citizens surveyed have said that most people in their city/district/area either do not have a mask at all or are not wearing it properly. As compared to previous survey conducted by LocalCircles in December 2021 and March 2022, the current survey suggests that only 4% of Indians surveyed now believe mask compliance is effective in their area. Of those who are wearing masks, respondents say, 2 in 3 are wearing a cloth mask which provides limited protection from COVID. On the social distancing front, only 4% Indians surveyed now say social distancing compliance is effective in their area. Despite the risk of COVID, social distancing compliance stays extremely low at area/district/city level in comparison to previous surveys conducted in April 2021 and July 2021.
With daily reported cases jumping 5 fold in the last 3 weeks from 2000 to over 11000 now, India is seeing a new COVID surge. Research by LocalCircles in May in Delhi indicated that the case loads are undercounted by nearly 80% because of widespread use of Rapid Antigen Test or no testing at all indicating that the national daily case loads could be higher than 50,000. The removal of mask mandates was a gross mistake made by many states as it has led to people believing that the pandemic is over. As found in the survey, 56% people said that most people in their area do not even have a mask anymore, let alone wearing it. Getting these people who have given up on masking completely to restart again will be a challenging task. Many countries around the world made this same mistake in mid-2021, only to learn a difficult lesson thereafter. None of these countries have been able to get the masking discipline back during the Omicron wave.
In the event that any of the new Delta-Omicron recombinants pose a higher threat level, India could get challenged because of low masking and social distancing compliance levels. LocalCircles, a few months back on demand of citizens had suggested that the Government through its own budget or via CSR programs, initiate a “Mask for All program” such that every citizen gets a few high-quality masks like N95, KN95, etc. available to them free of cost. Such a program, along with public awareness campaigns on the importance of masking and social distancing can help ensure that if a wave does arrive, people take a step back and comply.
LocalCircles will escalate the findings of this study with key stakeholders in the Central and State Governments such that public awareness can be created on masking and social distancing including reconsideration of bringing back the mask mandates so the public at large knows that COVID is still out there.
The survey received close to 36,000 responses from citizens residing in 346 districts of India. 62% respondents were me while 38% respondents were women. 46% respondents were from tier 1, 30% from tier 2 and 26% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. The survey was conducted via the LocalCircles platform, and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.