THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 20 April 2020 (Telephone survey shows highunderstanding of social distancing, support for lockdown(Indian Express))

Telephone survey shows highunderstanding of social distancing, support for lockdown(Indian Express)

Mains Paper 1:Society 
Prelims level:Social Distancing 
Mains level: Effects of lockdown and its future outlook 


  • With the nation in the midst of an extended lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the question of what to do next looms large. We are operating in a brave new world where modern governance has met an old-fashioned enemy. 

Historical background: 

  • The Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 is believed to have killed more than 15 million Indians and COVID-19 is seen to be almost as virulent. 
  • At the same time, there are more weapons in our arsenal to deal with this enemy today than a century ago.
  • Worldwide, social distancing is seen as a way to reduce the spread of the disease until health systems are able to cope with it and a vaccine is developed. 
  • The challenge we face is between public health needs and the requirement to keep the wheels of the economy rolling. 

How has the lockdown affected the society? 

  • While there is no crystal ball to predict the future, a recently completed Delhi National Capital Region Coronavirus Telephone Survey (DCVTS) by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) offers interesting insights into the present. 
  • The NCAER National Data Innovation Centre has carried out the Delhi Metropolitan Area Study (DMAS) since February 2019. 
  • It has surveyed over 5,000 urban and rural households in Delhi as well as in the surrounding districts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan via in-person interviews. 
  • Between April 3 and April 6, 2020, about 1,750 households from this larger study were surveyed in a telephone interview about their understanding of symptoms and transmission of the novel coronavirus as well as their experience of the lockdown.
  • The massive communications effort undertaken by the government ensured that every single person interviewed had heard of coronavirus and 95 per cent believed it to be very dangerous. 
  • When asked to identify symptoms of the infection, they could easily distinguish between coronavirus as a respiratory disease as opposed to a gastrointestinal disease. 
  • The next stage of communications messaging, however, will need to focus on helping people identify when to seek help. 


Should we continue it for a few more weeks? 

  • Respondents reported that the lockdown resulted in substantial reduction in income in the preceding two weeks. 
  • About 55 per cent respondents said that their incomes had reduced “very much” while 30 per cent said it had reduced “somewhat”. 
  • Most of the income drop occurred in households that drew income from casual labour or petty business. 
  • Regular salaried workers were somewhat isolated, as were farmers. Among households where the primary source of income was casual labour, 75 per cent suffered large income loss compared to 47 per cent for regular salaried workers. 
  • The drop in income affected households in the bottom 20 per cent of the wealth distribution more than those in the top 20 per cent — 62 per cent in the bottom quintile reported a large decline in income compared to 42 per cent at the top. 
  • This lends strength to the urgency for ensuring income support to households below the poverty line.

Using the tool of social distancing: 

  • Social distancing, one of the primary weapons in our arsenal, is understood by most households and people are making an effort to follow it. 
  • About 85 per cent of the respondents noted some form of social distancing as a way of preventing infection. 
  • When asked about how many people they had come in contact with outside the house over the preceding 24 hours, over 50 per cent responded that they had not come in contact with anyone. 
  • Most of the others noted only one or two contacts outside the house. However, a minority of individuals had a large number of contacts. 
  • Many were in occupations like shopkeeping that did not allow them to distance themselves. 
  • We will need to develop strategies, such as use of masks, that allows these individuals to continue to offer essential services while reducing spread of the disease.

Way forward:

  • An emergency, like the threat of coronavirus, brings out the best and the worst of ourselves. 
  • It has brought forth a civic response unlike any we have seen in the past outside of war times. Regardless of their personal situation, individuals stand ready to fight the virus. 
  • In spite of some missteps, it has also brought out the strength of the Indian bureaucracy in identifying the challenge and in mobilising strategies like social distancing before the virus had a chance to spread to rural India. 
  • At the same time, it has also amplified preexisting vulnerabilities where some segments of the society face greater challenges due to loss in incomes or are at a higher risk due to preexisting conditions such as diabetes or heart condition. 


  • The coronavirus threat also highlights the vulnerability of the Indian health system, forcing us to make difficult choices in who to test, whom to treat and when to treat as we try to deal with shortages in testing supplies and treatment facilities.


Online Coaching for UPSC PRE Exam

General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

Prelims Questions:

Q.1)With reference to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), consider the following statements:
1. It is an intergovernmental organisation and the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force in 1997.
2. It was established in 1997 with its headquarters at New York.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2



Mains Questions:
Q.1)How has the lockdown affected the society? Should we continue it for a few more weeks or not? Comment.