The previous two years have demonstrated that the Covid-19 epidemic was both biological and psychosocial. As a result, measures to prevent and manage Covid, or any pandemic disease, must address both of these issues. There is a need to apply more in-depth and basic tactics to develop an equitable society in order to avert a pandemic of fear, distrust, and moralisation. Experts in pandemic social psychology found that transitory and short-sighted approaches are ineffective in dealing with any epidemic.
According to the study, such solutions may appear to be outside the scope of public health at times, and there is a need to broaden public health’s reach for the greater good. The lockdown demonstrates people’s impulsive and callous reactions to the infected and vaccination.
“This century has been exceptional in terms of public health since we had to battle two big pandemics in its first two decades,” said Dr Pradeep Awate, Maharashtra’s state surveillance officer. In 2009, we faced the Influenza A H1N1 pandemic, often known as swine flu, and in 2020, we faced the Covid pandemic, which has yet to be contained.
Pandemics of varying intensity appear to be our destiny, based on patterns of numerous new and re-emerging illnesses, climate change challenges, and the exponential expansion of worldwide travel. We must plan to cope with these pandemics efficiently in the future. To do so, we must investigate numerous facets of pandemics in order to comprehend their dynamics and effectively contain them.”
According to Awate, the scientific community and the health infrastructure have demonstrated their worth and revealed their flaws throughout the epidemic. The two years of lockdown, pandemic, and sicknesses have also brought attention to the psychological and social effects of viral infection, which is an often-overlooked component that requires more investigation.
Awate, Dr. “Studying the psychosocial components of each epidemic or pandemic provides us with useful methods for minimising the dangers’ effects.” In each epidemic or pandemic, the involvement of the community is critical. The study of pandemic sociology and psychology aids in the development of suitable interventions to improve the pandemic-affected community’s behaviour in a favourable way. Disturbances caused by an epidemic may look chaotic at first, but they may be analysed in a methodical manner. Following the HIV/AIDS epidemic, major societal developments in the previous three decades may necessitate some new learnings. In comparison to the 1990s, the internet and the introduction of social media have transformed many aspects of social relationships.
The threat of an infodemic is as serious as the threat of a disease. The omnipresent and omnipotent information technology of our era is responsible for its tremendous scope and speed. During the two years of the epidemic, a wide range of reactions occurred, which must be understood in order to develop more effective behavioural change communication tactics. After the biological pandemic, there followed a pandemic of dread, distrust, and moralization.
During the pandemic, there were several rumours relating meat eating to virus propagation and vaccine effectiveness to sterility, resulting in fewer individuals seeking immunisation. Fear spread like a plague, resulting in the proliferation of bogus news.
“Since the last two years, especially during and after the first lockdown, we have seen a huge increase in patients coming in and also the amount of calls we receive for counselling,” said Dr Nitin Abhivant, chief of the psychiatric department at Sassoon General Hospital. The lockdown had an impact on every sector of life, including social, financial, economic, and psychological aspects. Fear and worry crept into society as a result of the epidemic, the virus itself, and the methods adopted to reduce the number of cases.
The ‘new normal’ was unfamiliar to everyone, and it is not acceptable to all members of society. Humans are social animals, yet in the last two years, social life has been entirely disregarded, affecting everyone. The children were the victims because their social development was harmed. We witnessed youngsters who had either entirely stopped socialising or had become hostile as a result of the confinement. Some had forgotten how to talk, while others, who had been out of school for two years but were under pressure to improve their academic performance, were unable to master the basic skills necessary for learning. Even if the epidemic isn’t as severe as it once was, the impacts are still present.”
Women were the most affected, according to Dr. Abhivant, since they had to juggle their professional and personal lives. “Young couples who were happy before the lockdown were anxious due to overexposure to one another,” he added. Their personal space had been invaded, and too much of anything is harmful. Personal space used to be a kind of defence, but it no longer exists. This caused them to get irritated and enraged. Women become stressed as a result of this. Women were often the first to lose their employment, and those who remained employed had to balance work and personal obligations.
Maids were not permitted for the first several months, thus the full home task burden fell on the woman of the house. We are still not to the point where the male will share household chores. The pressure was eventually put on them. During the lockdown, the elderly in the family, who have a shorter sleep cycle, had lost their personal space. The elderly were especially fearful of the virus since they were the most vulnerable, and the lack of interaction with others added to their mental stress. As a result of the high unemployment rate, more young people have attempted suicide. We had to give advice and emotional support. The initial lockdown resulted in the greatest prevalence of stress and sadness, with some people even considering suicide.”
The Pune zilla parishad data by the women’s safety and vigilance committee for Pune rural areas found that 6,032 surveys were registered in the two years since the pandemic, with the committee resolving over 97 percent of the cases, or 905 cases, and 3%, or 27 cases, having to be forwarded to the protection officer for further investigation.
“When we detected a case of domestic violence, child abuse, child marriage, or health-related concerns through surveillance, we would initially carry out primary counselling as necessary through asha workers or aanganwadi workers,” said Ayush Prasad, chief executive officer of Pune zilla parishad.
We locate the victimised lady, schedule follow-up meetings, and, if necessary, refer the case to a protection officer, the police, an institution, or the family court, as well as give aid through NGOs.”