Despite new COVID variants identified, 2 out of 3 families surveyed likely to socialise this Diwali
- ● Percentage of families planning to socialise on Diwali rises from 48% in 2021 to 67% in 2022
- ● 1 in 3 families do not plan to attend any get togethers in the next 15 days; Foresee sizable risk of infection/reinfection due to new Omicron-Covid variants
- ● Recently identified new COVID-Omicron variants include BQ.1.1, XBB. BA.2.75.2 and BF.7
October 20, 2022, New Delhi: If the large public participation in major festive celebrations like Jagannath Rath Yatra, Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Onam and Durga Puja in the last two months are any indication, majority Indians seem to have shed their fear of Covid and its variants. After two years of low-key celebrations, the public seems to be ready to live it up as the nation gets ready to celebrate Diwali on October 24th. The party and Diwali fete season is in full swing in most of the top 20 cities of India.
However, world over, the COVID situation once again is starting to look trickier. With 4 new immune evading Omicron variants BQ.1.1, XBB, BA.2.75.2 and BF.7 rising in different parts of the world, an unprecedented situation is likely to unfold as for the first-time several countries are seeing multiple variants of Omicron rising at the same time. Immune evading refers to the variant bypassing immunity from a prior infection or vaccination thereby worrying public health experts and immunologists. With some of these variants already identified in India over the last few weeks and no restrictions on international travel, India does have the risk of a new surge or a wave starting in the last 2 months of the year. Diwali, before and after being the biggest festival in the country brings people together where not only people socialize in families and friends but also via large community events that take place the week before Diwali to a week post Diwali. To understand how people are likely to socialize this Diwali, LocalCircles conducted a survey which received over 21,000 responses from people located in 319 districts of India.
2 in 3 families surveyed likely to socialize in the next 15 days
The first question in the survey asked people if they planned to join festival celebrations, family get togethers or other events being staged in the neighbourhood or at the workplace. To the question “What are the different types of get-togethers you expect to attend in the next 15 days?”, only 33% out of 12,221 respondents replied in the negative. Of the remaining, 16% planned to “get together for festivals”, 11% planned to join for “birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions”, and 3% for other events being hosted in the neighbourhood, workplace, etc. In addition, 18% planned to participate in the first two categories, 3% in 2 and 3 categories, another 5% for public events whether for festival celebrations or neighbourhood events. Another 11% indicated plans to join all types of get togethers in the next 15 days.
The public spirit to return to what was a normal life before the pandemic seems to have revived as the LocalCircles survey done during the same month last year had shown only 48% were willing to get together and celebrate during Diwali time as against 67% now. The scenario last year was grim as many more families had lost their dear ones or seen them suffer due to severity of illness during the second wave of Covid. While the festive spirit has picked up, it is need of the hour to take precautions of masking and social distancing when socializing indoors and when in crowded settings even outdoors. The newly identified variants of Omicron have found to be highly infectious and India could see a surge similar to the 3rd wave of COVID in January 2022.
Only 1 in 3 families surveyed see sizable risk of COVID spread this Diwali
Via the next question in the survey, LocalCircles attempted to understand the risk perception from people due to socializing this Diwali. It asked respondents “With Diwali related and other socializing likely in the next 15 days and mask, social distancing compliance near zero in most parts of India, how much risk do they see from COVID?” In response, 21% of 9,806 respondents stated that they “don’t see much risk as a mini surge has started declining”, 24% felt there was “some risk as Omicron-Covid has new variants that keep coming” while 27% foresee “sizable risk as Omicron-Covid has new variants and there is high risk of re-infection”. On the contrary, 21% respondents stated that they “don’t see much risk as Covid pandemic is now like a viral/flu’ and another 7% are unsure on the subject or unwilling to comment.
In summary, after two years of largely limited Diwali celebrations, Indians are ready to party and socialize this year with 67% families surveyed planning one or more types of get togethers. With new COVID variants like BQ.1.1, XBB, BA.2.75.2 and BF.7 rising in different parts of the world and identified recently in India, there is some risk of COVID spread due to festive socializing. Only 1 in 3 Indian families see that as a sizable risk and worth staying away from socializing. For rest, the COVID fatigue has set in and given that at least the officially reported numbers are at an all time low, there isn’t a better time to socialize. The key here according to LocalCircles is socializing with caution, i.e. following the appropriate COVID protocol of masking and social distancing when indoors and even in crowded outdoor settings and isolating, if aware of any known exposure or experiencing any COVID symptoms.
The survey received over 21,000 responses from citizens located in 319 districts of India. 67% respondents were men while 33% respondents were women. 41% respondents were from tier 1, 34% from tier 2 and 25% 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.