In the midst of dreaded Coronavirus infection surge, with reported community spread of the infection happening in certain states, distance norms vanished with the announcement of Unlock phases 1 &2 in the country. Reports in the media indicated people in droves, with scant respect for distancing rules, thronged the markets, shops, malls, and eateries. Many ventured without masks in public places. A large number of vehicles and crowded public transport, and two and more people traveling in two-wheelers became a common site across major cities of the states. New records of a single-day spike in COVID-19 cases hit the headlines in mainstream media. Also, a worrisome report came out indicating the hidden coronavirus infection among a relatively high population of people, screened for Covid-19 infection, tested positive. Public health specialists looking at the trend opined large reservoirs of hidden and uncounted infection and indicated that the epidemic might have spread faster than testing. More and more, young and middle-aged, people reportedly fell prey to the infection and some unknowingly got infected and cured, already. Some of the State governments once again enforced staggered lockdown with stricter containment measures. While generally, there existed a high level of compliance among people by wearing masks in public and generally trying to keep their distance from other people, yet, in some containment zones, people are reportedly ignoring Covid-19 precautions. They may be wrong but they may not be crazy. Human nature is enigmatic especially when there is no dearth of information on different media- accessible to all- about the need to be on guard. Yet it is not entirely that habit alone accounts for the disparagement of mask-wearing and not caring to maintain a safe distance at public spaces. Understanding their behavior and revising strategies towards mobilizing these people for safety precautions against virus is needed.
Interfaces with experts and social activists led to the understanding of three intersecting trends here that underlie the beliefs of a lot of COVID-19 skeptics based on socio-cultural dynamics. This write-up does not intend to say upfront that people who are ignoring the social distancing guidelines can be condoned. This country, being in the middle of a public health crisis, demanding widespread cooperation, the point that needs consideration is to understand the thought-process of skeptics who tend to ignore rules. Having knowledge of their behavior might provide tools for helping to encourage skeptics to engage in social distancing practices and overcome their misgivings.
Lack of Trust
There appear high levels of distrust in the social order. And that has led some people to mistrust experts in general. That lack of trust can lead people to question whether the recommendations made by those experts are truly so important. A recent Gallup study on finding people’s perspectives on whether the rapid spread of Coronavirus has in some way shaken their trust in established Institutions found that the answers from those affected by individual or near one’s Covid-19 infection had certain bearings. Those affected directly or indirectly indicated a 10 percent decrease in their trust in Institutions; and 5 percent on government. There can be various reasons for the trust deficit that may include the following: (1) Insufficiency in sustained community engagement and communication at the local level ; (2) Citizen’s relative lack of confidence in the administrative capabilities, impartial and efficiency often shaped by the partnership, access to reliable information (countering fake social media news) and past interactions with authorities; (3) Lack in building people’s trust in science and their confidence in the cumulative body of research findings; with the flow of credible information and accountability;(4) skepticism towards Covid-19 policies is also pronounced in places where elections are on the horizon, and use of ambiguity and weasel words in promises. More instances can be cited by others on this score. Thus, when considering relationships, the four most common elements needed to develop trust are competence, reliability, integrity, and communication. Trust is critical to large-scale citizen compliance with public health measures, and strengthening it will require a range of interventions in a fast-moving pandemic situation.
Another factor influencing individuals’ activities is that the immediate results of the pandemic are not upfront for some individuals. They may find out about cases in the news, however, they may not know anybody legitimately who has become ill or passed on from the infection. At the point when one is far off from things in time or space, at that point, one considers them conceptually. The abstractness can make it simpler to believe that one is, by and by, not prone to get the infection. It additionally causes the particular side effects of the infection to appear to be less serious. All things considered, pondering a general idea, for example, illness doesn’t expect one to consider what it resembles to be not able to get breath since one’s lungs are loaded up with liquid, and to be experiencing the torment of high fever. Once more, individuals will in general feel the fatigue and disappointment of being socially disengaged, the danger of losing positions, and openings. They feel the discomfort of having to wear masks in public and disappointment of missing out on sporting events, concerts, and movies. Those consequences of social distancing may feel more real than the pandemic. And so, when people do a cost-benefit analysis, they may decide that the costs of social distancing are not worth the benefits of decreasing what they already see is a small likelihood that they will get the disease and even if they get it that it will have serious consequences for them. A study published in June this year indicated that worldwide people’s trust in Science ranged as- high-18 percent, medium-54 percent, and low-14%. The findings tend to indicate on average the belief in scientific findings and observations has not found suitable footing in the 21 century. Therefore, building citizens’ trust in Science assumes significance at this juncture.
Especially with some males, including International leaders of late, tend to value projecting a tough guy image over promoting the common good. People tend to have many different goals, also. The Goal theory indicated that it is an overall approach to motivation is influenced by factors as mastery of goals (understanding of concepts, contents, and application); performance (relative ability, ego-involved among others); and outcomes (self-efficacy, levels of cognitive engagements and others). For instance, wearing a face mask is helpful in preventing infection spread from public health perspectives, and the study published by Science-mag AAAS by a leading bank’s chief economist stated that mask-wearing among citizens can save 5 percent of national GDP. But to some, the same may pose individual inconvenience and a certain degree of embarrassment for self-projection. That is why the developing goals can be differing goals, also. Avoiding illness and death are certainly important for most people. But people also want to engage with other people, have fun, and to succeed in their jobs. At any given moment, some goals are more active than others. The active goals influence the actions one thinks are most appropriate to take. Those goals also influence how one interprets the information one encounters. Research on motivated reasoning finds that when people have a goal that is important to them, they interpret the information they encounter in a way that is consistent with that goal. Someone who wants to restart the economy will be more likely to downplay the severity of the pandemic in their region and to look for evidence that it is okay for businesses to open. It is natural, then, to want the world to be amenable to the outcomes one wants. In such a scenario, during Covid-19 crisis, situation-based management system, that may require the involvement of many actors, need to be augmented by the administration. The utmost point in consideration is that the capacity to coordinate crisis management is a fundamental element of good governance.
In countries where education is not evenly spread or of unequal standard, as in India, the wearing of a mask, maintaining social distance norms and following lockdown rules might have some psychological dimensions and the problem of knowledge gaps, yet at this stage, luxury to indulge these delicate complexities cannot be afforded. Now is the compelling need for clear leadership and strong governance to bring the people out of this crisis through coordinated efforts of all concerned to provide a solid pandemic influenza communication, through providing the key assumptions, guidance and relevant information to facilitate their pandemic business continuity planning.
The views and opinions expressed in this opinion article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Eastern Herald.