IIT Kharagpur Study Explores the Urgent Need for COVID Lockdown
IIT Kharagpur researchers have taken an initiative to carry out a study on travel and social distancing perspectives of Indian citizens during the recent outbreak of COVID-19. The study throws light on understanding people’s preparedness in case of a lockdown, their travel behaviour and their perceptions during COVID-19 outbreak and assessing impact of travel restrictions and social distancing on different aspects of life as per people’s perceptions.
The study was conducted by Dr. Saurabh Dandapat, Dr. Kinjal Bhattacharyya, Annam Sai Kiran, Kaustubh Saysardar, researchers at IIT Kharagpur’s Ranbir and Chitra Gupta School of Infrastructure Design and Management, Dept. of Civil Engineering, and mentored by Professor Bhargab Maitra. It covered 400-plus cities in 28 states and 4 UTs of India upto March 22, 2020. The work will eventually help formulate potential strategic interventions and policy measures for combating any future events of similar nature. It also aims to formulate and assess the likely effectiveness of different strategic interventions pertaining to travel and social distancing for minimizing the spread of COVID-19.
Explaining the need for the lockdown, Prof. Bhargab Maitra remarked, “It was alarming to note that nearly 20% respondents expressed their desire to leave the current city of work in case of announcement of city lockdown. Such acts would increase the risk of spread of COVID-19 in other places and therefore, justify the action taken by the Government of India in terms of one day ‘Janata Curfew’ and successive lockdown of several cities and towns by various State Governments.”
However, a positive indication in the report is the steady rise in the number of respondents opting for work from home from less than 40% to over 75% within a week’s time.
“Another positive note is that the study showed a significant share of respondents (i.e., over 30%) was aware about possible city quarantine and were getting prepared for it. The ‘Janata Curfew’ was a positive step for further awareness and preparedness about quarantine, and provided a doorway for implementation of lockdown in several states,” said researcher Dr. Saurabh Dandapat.
Researchers also observed that the awareness among the people about the risk of travel in public transport has increased over the time, possibly due to strong campaigns carried out by the Governments and wide coverage of COVID-19 cases by the media.
“Data reflect that while on 17th of March 2020 only about 60% respondents were considering cancellation/postponing long distance travel for various purposes such as healthcare, work, family/social, and vacation, the share increased to 75% on 22nd March 2020. Although this indicates a positive attitude, however, a significant share of respondents was still planning to travel which might increase the risk of spreading the virus,” said researcher Dr. Kinjal Bhattacharyya.
The researchers Annam Sai Kiran and Kaustubh Saysardar recommended creating more awareness among a section of citizens communicating the need for the lockdown. The study postulates the need for more stringent measures to restrict the movements even within the cities under lockdown to counteract the lack of awareness among a section of the society. It is now also necessary to boost the awareness campaign and the media can play a big role by increasing their self-initiatives with respect to awareness campaigns alongside publicizing the Government driven campaigns.
Based on the recent lockdowns and other efforts being taken by the Central and different State Governments, the questionnaire has now been updated to understand the perceptions and reactions of the citizens under current scenario and provide further inputs which might be of help to the Government to make further informed decisions.
Online survey can be taken on: https://forms.gle/JsYMe99NScpaEQm6A
The respondents’ were asked to provide details about their regular travel, travel characteristics during COVID-19 outbreak, their perception regarding safety against spread of COVID-19 during travel by different modes, impact of COVID-19 outbreak and travel restrictions on different aspects of their life, their travel plans in the case of lockdown of cities and during the initial period once the travel restrictions are lifted, and demographic and socio-economic characteristics.
The research team analyzed more than 3,400 responses obtained from 400-plus cities in 28 states and 4 UTs of India. The database covers respondents from different segments of the society in terms of income groups, profession, and age groups. The data are being analyzed over the time and the questionnaire is being updated according to the changing scenarios in order to capture the real time responses. The analysis indicates several interesting observations.