About three in ten believe coronavirus was made in a lab, says survey

About 54% have said lockdown ‘helped overcome’ the pandemic and 30% opined it ‘created problems’

Updated - June 11, 2020 09:57 am IST

Published - June 10, 2020 10:47 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A lab technician extracts a portion of a COVID-19 vaccine at the Chula Vaccine Research Center, in Bangkok, Thailand.

A lab technician extracts a portion of a COVID-19 vaccine at the Chula Vaccine Research Center, in Bangkok, Thailand.

About three in 10 believed that coronavirus(COVID-19 ) was manufactured in a laboratory but most, or 42%, believed it evolved naturally, say the early results of a sociological survey to gauge public perception of the COVID-19 pandemic in India.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he believed that the virus emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has stated that SARS-CoV-2 was “man-made and not natural.” However, the expert scientific consensus based on analysing the gene sequences of the virus is that it has evolved naturally.

About 54% said the lockdown “helped overcome” the pandemic and 30% said the lockdown “created problems” including — a fifth of them saying — that they’d lost jobs and earnings and 3% saying that they faced “hunger and starvation.” At 2,80,000 cases on Wednesday, India continues to be on a rising-case trajectory even as the government has announced significant relaxations — from the opening of religious places to allowing malls to reopen — even as the true extent of the infection is still being ascertained by epidemiologists. Seven in 10 said social distancing would only retard the spread of the virus and 18% saying that it would “eradicate” the pandemic.

Scientific information

“Overall, it appears that scientific information won over superstition and myths regarding the virus, its origin, manner of spread, those who were most susceptible,” Gauhar Raza, formerly Chief Scientist, CSIR-National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources, and among the authors of the study, told The Hindu, “though it was evident there were vigorous efforts by some media to spread misinformation and pseudo-science.”

In response to a question: ‘Are you afraid of corona infection when you go out?’, 64% said they were afraid and 18% responded they weren’t. This was in the first fortnight of May when lockdown 3.0 was in force.

2,223 respondents

The survey report, Pulse of the Pandemic, interviewed 2,223 respondents and was authored by sociologists Surjit Singh and P.V.S. Kumar, and social activist Leena Dabiru and Raza. The answers were from 1,200 who responded via an online English questionnaire and 500 online in Hindi and around 500 respondents were interviewed in person via paper and pen. Some of these offline results were still being processed.

About 60% of those who responded were recorded from north India and the next highest percentage,18, from western India. Only 6% were from the south and the east — Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand — made up 5%. Six out of 10 who participated were male and 46% of the respondents were 21-40 years and 60% said they were graduates or postgraduates and primarily were in government jobs or worked for a private company. “They represented an urban middle class population of India and a limitation of our study was that it didn’t represent a wider demographic of the country in terms of their perceptions and beliefs regarding COVID-19. This was due to the difficulties in movement due to the lockdown,” said Raza.

The findings were “preliminary” and part of an ongoing investigation to evaluate how scientific information regarding the pandemic was retained over time and whether longer behavioural changes are likely to prevail in the aftermath of the pandemic. The study was supported by the PM Bhargava Foundation and ANHAD, an organisation associated with human rights issues.

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