As India unlocks, 2 in 3 Indians say there is limited or no mask compliance in their area and district
- ● 1 in 3 Indians say they saw limited compliance at the vaccination center
- ● 1 in 2 Indians is wearing cloth masks which provide limited protection from COVID
- ● 91% citizens want State Governments to make wearing of masks mandatory in districts with active cases
June 24, 2021, New Delhi: Masking and following social distance norms is highly recommended by medical experts as the top defence against COVID. As the daily caseload declines in India and states unlock in phases, many parts of the country are seeing people without masks or wearing it on the chin, carrying it in their hands, putting it inside their pocket instead. During the 2nd wave, the Government of India via its Principal Scientific Advisor issued guidelines suggesting double masking as a defence to COVID with the highly infectious Delta variant or the B.1.617.2 causing havoc in most parts of India. With the 3rd COVID wave on the horizon, experts believe that if people don’t follow mask and social distancing norms, it will come sooner, as early as 6-8 weeks. The Delta plus variant is now emerging with over 20 cases found in Maharashtra alone. The Health Ministry has stated that there is a 90% risk of infection associated with two individuals not wearing a mask and not maintaining adequate social distancing. The risk gets reduced to 30% if the unaffected person is wearing a mask. The Government advisory also highlighted that droplets and aerosols are the primary ways of transmission with aerosols which can travel in the air up to 10 meters. This means the virus can quickly spread from a small number of people to a very large population if COVID-appropriate behaviors are not seriously taken.
LocalCircles has conducted a survey to find out how people in cities and districts, including at the vaccination centers, are complying with wearing a face mask. The survey also sought to find out if people are wearing the right masks that give them protection, or are they wearing any mask just for the sake of it. Lastly, the survey sought to gather citizens’ pulse if the State Governments should make the wearing of masks outside home mandatory in districts with active COVID cases. The survey received over 33,000 responses from citizens located in 312 districts of the country.
67% citizens say there is limited mask compliance in their area/district/city
The first question sought citizens’ experience and observation of people in their area, district, or city complying with wearing a mask. In response, only 2% said there is “No compliance at all”. Breaking down the poll, 10% said 0-30% of people are compliant, 55% said it’s 30-60%, 23% said it’s 60-90%, and only 9% said more than 90% people are compliant to following mask norms. 1% did not have an opinion. On an aggregate basis, the findings indicate that 67% of citizens say there is limited mask compliance in their area, district, or city. This question in the survey received 8,083 responses.
32% citizens say there was limited mask compliance at the vaccination center they recently visited
Many vaccination centers are seeing overcrowding with people lining up to get a jab and there has been chaos observed in some locations. In Kerala, the State’s High Court had to take suo moto cognizance of overcrowding at vaccine centers. Following this, the Kerala government issued an order stopping spot reservation and allowed only online registration for both doses of vaccine. However, it was close to impossible to get an appointment online which led to people continuing to line-up for on-spot reservation in an attempt to get the vaccine dose. Many citizens on LocalCircles have pointed out that their family members have gotten COVID a few days after receiving vaccination at centers, citing the high possibility of some vaccination centers being superspreaders as some people were not even following masking protocols.
The next question aimed to seek a collective response from citizens about how mask norms were being followed at the vaccination center or location when they went to get the vaccine for themselves or took their family members in April or May. In response, 2% said “No mask compliance at all”. Breaking down the poll, 4% said 0-30% people were compliant, 26% said it’s 30-60%, 47% said it’s 60-90%, and 21% said more than 90% people were wearing a mask properly. On an aggregate basis, the findings of the poll indicate that 32% of citizens say there was limited mask compliance at the vaccination center they recently visited. This question in the survey received 7,999 responses.
1 in 2 Indians are wearing masks that provide limited protection from COVID
The Government advisory suggests that double masking, with cloth and surgical masks, can largely prevent the COVID spread. While there has been the introduction of many kinds of masks, it also suggests that N-95 provides maximum protection from the virus. It has become more important to wear effective masks since the SARS-COV2 is more easily transmissible through the air. Many Indians since 2020 have been using cloth masks, some even using ones made at home, assuming that they will provide the necessary protection from COVID-19 while that may not be the case with the new Delta variant i.e. B.1.617.2.
The following question tried to find out the type of mask citizens use most of the time, whether indoor or outdoor. In response, 44% said they use cloth masks, 20% use a surgical disposable mask, 4% said they use KN-95 or W-95 mask, 25% use N-95, 1% said N-95 mask with valve, another 1% said N-99 mask, and 4% said “others”. 1% did not have an opinion. The findings of the survey indicate that 1 in 2 Indians are wearing cloth masks that provide limited protection from COVID. This question in the survey received 9,747 responses.
Experts believe that if India has to delay the arrival of a 3rd COVID wave or reduce its impact, complying to mask and social distancing norms will be the primary driver for it followed by vaccination of as many citizens as possible. In order to make this happen and to get the citizens to continue following the habit of masking, especially as economic activity opens up with unlocking, LocalCircles sought inputs on actions that must be taken and enforceable mask mandate came out as a top recommendation.
91% citizens believe State Government should make wearing of masks outside of home mandatory if a district has any active cases
Given the that the risk of transmission can be reduced to 30% when wearing a mask from 90% for those not wearing masks, the next question in the survey sought to understand if citizens believe State Governments should make wearing of masks outside home mandatory if a district has any covered cases. In response, 91% said “yes”, 8% said “no”, and 1% could not say. This question in the survey received 8,346 responses.
In summary, despite the most lethal COVID wave that any country in the world experience so far, India’s mask compliance is still low as indicated by the survey finding where 67% of citizens say there is limited or no mask compliance in their area, district, or city. Only 32% of citizens say there was limited mask compliance at the vaccination center they recently visited, which is a major concern that requires immediate action to make sure that such centers do not become superspreaders. In addition, what worked in 2020, in regards to the type of masks and the level of protection against COVID may not be holding true with the highly transmissible variants like Delta or B.1.617.2 and hence if 44% of Indians are wearing cloth masks it may not provide them with the needed protection.
As Delhi unlocked with the opening of malls and markets, media has regularly reported poor social distancing and mask compliance with experts raising concerns about the faster arrival of the 3rd COVID wave. Hence the recommendation of 91% of citizens suggesting that State Governments enforce mandatory masking in all districts with active COVID cases is something that must be implemented on priority with heavy fines for any violation. If the same is combined with community awareness drives on the ground using all forms of media, it will likely lead to improved compliance.
More than 33,000 responses were received from citizens residing in 312 districts of India. 68% respondents were men while 32% respondents were women. 47% respondents were from tier 1, 30% from tier 2 and 23% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.