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Living with Coronavirus – the long haul

Living with Coronavirus – the long haul

Published:03 August 2020

# AG Vallabhan

Many people fail to understand the concept of exponential growth, having never encountered it outside of math class. People struggle to act on facts that don’t align with their frames of reference. Young people often find it difficult to comprehend their mortality (A reality though).

Bhopal | The pandemic Covid-19 has demonstrated that people can rapidly change their behaviours during an acute crisis be it a war or a lockdown condition with large-scale shifts to work from home. However, sustaining those changes for a prolonged period is difficult.
COVID-19 may be with us for many months, perhaps years, upfront. Societies face the challenge of resuming as many normal activities as possible while preventing resurgence in the volume of the disease. To do so, they need strategies to sustain changes in behaviour, such as the use of face masks and physical distancing, over time. Recommended behaviours will continue to emerge as new scientific evidence surfaces.
While the pandemic is here to stay, some feel that the extended lockdowns from March in different parts were not the permanent solution to control the virus else it should have been contained by now. But some others feel that with the rate at which it was multiplying, only a lockdown could have contained it the least. Many people fail to understand the concept of exponential growth, having never encountered it outside of math class.
Countries used a variety of lockdown measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Citizens noticed the differences, and some grew suspicious that the rules they were asked to follow might not be the “right” ones. The governments, after all, had the responsibility of keeping people safe, both on physical and economic well-being.  
The different states had different rules to follow for the public. If one State enforced a lockdown, another allowed free to walk. Within the State, some district went into red zones and some into containment areas, all of them had different rules. Some areas had liquor shops opened which increased the movement in that area and cross infection spiked because of that.
People struggle to act on facts that don’t align with their frames of reference. Young people often find it difficult to comprehend their mortality (A reality though). Getting individuals to change behaviours may require reframing the message to one that is meaningful and specific to them.
In the pandemic context, some people react negatively to lockdowns as actions that seem to be taking away freedoms and shutting down economic activity. For certain segments of the population, reframing messaging from “restrict my freedom” (which people will fight) to “help me save the economy” or “help my family return to normal” (which few will oppose) might be helpful.
Campaigns to reduce the use of handheld cell phones while driving, and insisting on the use of helmets by bikers are examples of States struggling to change behaviours. Similarly, they should start a prolonged awareness campaign to fight Covid-19 with use of face masks and social distancing indoctrinated into the SOPs.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh has already hinted at no extension of lockdowns as the continued loss of jobs and the sulking industry is no more tenable.
Business establishments will restart, government offices will resume operations, schools and colleges will reopen gradually. We should adopt a way of living confirming the reality of the medium-term presence of the pandemic in our neighbourhood or neglect it to our peril.


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