Covid-19 cases are spiking in India with talks of ‘second wave’ and ‘lockdown’ gathering steam. Just yesterday, it was reported that India saw 56,211 fresh cases and 271 deaths and sadly, the daily fresh Covid-19 caseload is steadily rising for close to a month now.
Maharashtra, the most affected state in the nation, alone saw 27,918 COVID-19 cases yesterday, which even though is a dip in the otherwise rising trajectory, it’s still almost half of all cases occurring all over India. This is even resulting in stringent actions being taken in the state such as lockdown in several districts and night curfews to curb the gathering of people.
So what’s changed? Yes, new variants of Covid-19 have been found, but are they spreading so fast? We looked at Google Search trends to understand how people in India have possibly lowered their guards against Covid-19.
COVID-19 Search Trend in India
A year ago, when the nationwide lockdown was announced in India, people were forced to stay indoors because of multiple fears — fear of catching the coronavirus, fear of the police, fear of risking your life and your family’s lives. At the time, say around April 2020, the search value for coronavirus was at 96, however, now over a year later the search value has dropped considerably to just 26.
Comparing this search trend amidst states in India, the state of Meghalaya tops the search trend for the same keyword for the entire year (the state has seen a total of 14,034 cases till now), whereas Maharashtra, the state that’s the worst affected (with over 2.75 million cases as of now) is all the way back to 20. This could obviously mean many things — perhaps people have genuinely stopped searching for coronavirus information online — but it could also mean something else.
Have we forgotten the fear and uncertainty of last year?
Last year was tough for most of us with uncertainty on how Covid-19 will impact our lives at multiple levels — from basic safety and security of life to job prospects and other major disruptions we weren’t preparing ourselves for. However, the government and the frontline workers did a phenomenal job of keeping things in check.
But it seems as if most people have taken this hard work for granted or maybe they think that COVID-19 is a lot more manageable than it was thought of before, resulting in many becoming negligent, and we’ve been seeing this in several places in the nation where people have quit wearing face masks or adhering to social distancing norms.
Speaking just about Mumbai (because that’s where I live), from resumption of local trains in Mumbai to people celebrating festivals and other celebratory occasions in huge numbers seems to have eroded all the gains we made from last year in terms of controlling the Covid-19 spread, as standard operating procedures like wearing masks, washing hands, and maintaining social distancing stopped mattering to people.
Looking at the search keyword ‘covid-19 prevention’ for the past 90 days, in January, we saw a search value of around 100 in the first week of the month, whereas, by March-end, this value was around 16. Astonishingly, Daman & Diu was the state with most searches with this keyword, followed by Tripura, Chandigarh, Jammu & Kashmir and Jharkhand. Maharashtra went all the way back to 21.
People searching for Covid-19 vaccines
One reason for this negligence could be the availability of vaccines in India. After authorities announced that people over the age of 60 and people over the age of 45 with comorbidities could get vaccinated, Google Search saw a considerable spike in people searching for vaccine and vaccine centres near them.
Google Search for ‘Covid vaccine’ in the month of March showed a search value of 98 on March 1, whereas by the end of March, the number fell down to just 32.
Kerala topped this list with Daman & Diu coming second and Maharashtra coming third.
People looking for ‘vaccine centres’ at the beginning of March showed a search value of 90-100, whereas now at the end of the month, it has dropped to 41.
Uttarakhand topped this list with West Bengal coming a close second, followed by Delhi, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Maybe all over the country, people thought the vaccines are here, so Covid-19 would magically disappear. If only it was that easy…
Wearing masks and social distancing is still paramount
It is established that despite vaccinations happening, people still need to be careful with the novel coronavirus. Face masks must be on at all times while stepping out and even though you’re wearing the mask, it doesn’t mean you need to be careless with social distancing.
While CDC recommends maintaining 6-feet distance to prevent contraction of SARS CoV-2, studies have shown how that too can be inadequate at times, (also in a crowded nation like India, getting 6-feet distance from another human is a luxury we don’t have), so make sure you only step out when it is absolutely necessary, as this will also help you avoid other diseases.
We’ve already explained how it is crucial for us to not overburden the medical infrastructure in our nation, which even though it is far more equipped than it was last year, is still not ready to have millions of people hospitalized and put the medical healthcare professionals in a more dire situation.
And remember, soap is the best enemy against the novel coronavirus and maintaining personal hygiene by following the 20-second hand washing technique is still equally important.
Let’s not lose the battle against Covid-19 after enduring a year’s worth of sacrifice, especially now when we have reached the vaccination stage. Covid-19 hasn’t magically disappeared, vaccinating the population of India is going to take time, and no one knows where’s the finish line. Stay indoors as much as possible, and when you’re out please follow all the safety guidelines — to protect yourself and your loved ones against this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic event.