IIT Kharagpur study explores urgent need for Covid-19 lockdown

Kolkata, March 26 (IANS) 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, throwing light on understanding people's psyche preparedness in case of a lockdown.

The study also takes a look at people's travel behaviour and their perceptions during COVID-19 outbreak while assessing impact of travel restrictions and social distancing on different aspects of life as per people's perceptions.

The study was conducted by Saurabh Dandapat, 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 four Union Territories upto March 22.

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, Maitra said: “It was alarming to note that nearly 20 per cent 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 per cent to over 75 per cent within a week's time. “Another positive note is that the study showed a significant share of respondents (over 30 per cent) were 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 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 per cent respondents were considering cancellation/postponing long distance travel for various purposes such as healthcare, work, family/social, and vacation, the share increased to 75 per cent 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 Bhattacharyya.

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.



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