The Indian government, epidemiologists, health experts, celebrities and influencers have gone to great lengths to spread awareness about the coronavirus pandemic which has already claimed five lives in India. But many in the country may still be failing to take the pandemic or the related precautions being prescribed to avoid it seriously due to lack of proper information or messaging.
In fact, a survey conducted by Josh Talks revealed that as many as 65 percent of respondents believed that India would not be affected by COVID-19 since it is a warm country.
The survey asked two questions to groups of 45,000 and 40,700 respondents each, which consisted of subscribers of Josh Talks across India. The questions, framed in six languages including Hindi, Bangla, Telegu, Tamil, Malayalam and Punjabi, were aimed to judge urban Indians' awareness and preparedness for coronavirus.
As many as 65.1 percent of the first group of respondents felt that the virus would not affect India as it is a warm country. While this has been one of the myths that have been perpetuated about the virus, many experts and have been sceptical about warm weather slowing COVID-19 down. In fact, there is no evidence whatsoever to support the claim as COVID-19 is a completely new virus that was previously unknown to humans and scientists are only just beginning to understand its workings and origins.
Moreover, the survey also found that about 12.5 percent of the respondents believed coronavirus could only happen to people above the age of 60. This is one of the most common misconceptions about coronavirus as several young people have tested positive for coronavirus and others such as the 21-year-old Spanish football coach Francisco Garcia have even lost their lives.
These weren't the only misconceptions that the survey revealed. As many as 6.1 percent of the respondents thought eating eggs or chicken made people more vulnerable to COVID-19 and 5.7 percent thought that the disease could be cured by consuming cow urine (goumutra) or garlic.
The second question of the survey, which dealt with the preparedness of people to avoid getting infected by coronavirus, garnered better responses. About 76 percent of 40,700 respondents from across India said that maintained proper self-hygiene and ensure a clean environment, avoided crowded places and used a face mask while traveling. They also said that they would seek a doctor in case of suffering from a cough or displaying any of the symptoms for over five days.
Nevertheless, misinformation regarding the virus, that has killed over 10,000 people globally within a span of months, seemed rampant. Among the respondents, some felt that eating Chavanprash or amla (Indian gooseberry) and avoiding meat would help build immunity against the virus.
One of the respondents commented, "consume one teaspoon amla powder morning and night and no coronavirus can ever affect you". Yet others suggested wearing covered clothes and exposing oneself to sunlight as ways to avoid getting infected
It is important to assert yet again at this point that all these assumptions have no scientific bases whatsoever as no evidence for the same has been reported yet.
With an increasing number of positive cases of coronavirus in India, several state governments such as Maharashtra have called for lockdowns and bans on the congregation of more than five people. Several offices and educational institutions have decided to shift operations online and people at large are being advised to practice social distance and self-isolation in a bid to slow down to spread of the virus.
At such a time, misinformation could be vital in preventing containment. To that end, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on Thursday evening and called for March 22 to be observed as "Janta Curfew" in order to raise awareness about the importance of isolation.