Social Distancing Etiquette: How Not To Be A Covidiot


The birds were chirping, the sky was bright and blue. We had done it! I was about to pat my back as a proud Indian, as we had managed to stay indoors for an entire day. We clapped for our healthcare professionals and providers who were making this a convenient task for us. And then people trickled into the streets. Videos of people turning what was supposed to be a total curfew by the people for the people, into a fair. Or rather a circus. The entire purpose of going into a lockdown got defeated in many places when covidiots took to streets to “celebrate the defeat of coronavirus”. Oh my dear god!

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But this isn’t the first time people have thrown caution to the wind, showing utter disregard to their safety and that of others. Which is why there is a new term for those who are resorting behaviour that puts others at risk of contracting COVID-19 infection- covidiots. A covidiot is a person who is either not taking the current situation seriously or is reliant on WhastApp university for their dose of news and research on coronavirus, not bothering to verify what they read. Don’t be a covidiot. And if you need help on how not to be one, here’s your guide.

1. Forwarding fake news: No, blowing shankh or clapping in unison doesn’t kill coronavirus. Nor is there any evidence that eating haldi, tulsi, elaichi or drinking gaumutra keeps you safe from the infection. It is at best debatable to say that all these gharelu nuskhas help strengthen your immunity. Follow them at your own risk, but please do not endorse them on family WhatsApp groups without any word of caution. What needs to be endorsed is the guidelines to wash and sanitise your hands properly and social distancing.

So if you do not want to be a covidiot, share news from trusted sources such as WHO and the Health Ministry of India, instead of mindlessly forwarding WhatsApp knowledge.

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2. Being part of gatherings: My timeline is flooded with videos of people stepping out into streets, holding rallies, and doing garba, to celebrate the success of junta curfew. It is as if these people believe that all it takes is ten hours of staying indoors to keep coronavirus at bay. It gives me chills to realise that people actually took to streets to celebrate the defeat of coronavirus.

Are we not watching the news at all? Do we not have any idea of how grave this pandemic is? How rampantly it spreads amidst crowds? Italy is clocking close to 800 deaths in a day. There are more than 32,000 cases of coronavirus in the US today, while India is close has hit the 400 mark. Large gatherings is exactly what we have to avoid. It is too soon to pat your backs for a job well done.

3. Travelling: Call it due to panic or lack of resources, but it seems like Indians cannot stop travelling despite repeated requests from the authorities to stay put where they are. Finally, the railway and bus services have been stopped and local transport has been halted to restrict mass movement. But is that enough to stop us? Will it keep people from taking their own vehicles to the road and find ways, any way possible, to cross borders? Switch on to news and you’ll see a queue of vehicles on highways, trying to enter cities under lockdown or exit them.

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Yes, it is easy to panic in such tough times. People living away from home, especially those with limited means of income, are in a fix right now. They have no money or means. There is rent to be paid, food to be bought. At such times one instinctively wants to go back to your village or town where you’ll be taken care of. Then there are people who have elderly parents living away from them. I am one of them. And right now, I do not want anything more than to be by the side of my parents. But travelling from a city known to have a lot of cases of COVID-19 to the one with none as of yet is risky, even despite the fact that I have been social-distancing for 15 days. Staying where we are is one way of keeping people living in towns and villages, which are yet untouched by coronavirus safe.

4. Refusing to self-isolate after foreign travel: Singer Kanika Kapoor was in the news the last few days for travelling from London to India and then partying the elite, instead of self-isolating herself. Her argument is that she only developed symptoms some days after coming back to India and when she had her tests done, they came out positive.

So if you have returned from abroad, or from any city known to have cases of coronavirus in India itself, you need to self-isolate. It doesn’t matter if you took all the prescribed precautions, or have not experienced any symptoms. Self-isolate out of precaution.

There is a reason why experts are asking people to self-isolate themselves for 14 days. It isn’t as if you develop coronavirus infection symptoms within seconds or minutes of the exposure. Besides, a lot of people may not even show any symptoms, but still act as careers of the infection. So if you have returned from abroad, or from any city known to have cases of coronavirus in India itself, you need to self-isolate. It doesn’t matter if you took all the prescribed precautions, or have not experienced any symptoms. Self-isolate out of precaution. That’s your duty towards your society and your loved ones now, and it is no longer optional.

5. Boasting about immunity: I am seeing too many people boasting about our immunity on social media, saying that coronavirus won’t do us much damage because, erm, we are unhygienic ( I have no clue how that is a thing to be proud of). However, this cannot be an excuse to not wash or sanitise your hands. While you may have full confidence in your robust immunity, keep in mind that there are many around you who may not be as blessed. People who are old, or suffering from any chronic disease are more likely to take ill due to coronavirus.

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You may have an aged grandma at home or an octagenarian neighbour. You could end up jeopardising their health by being reckless. So even if you trust your immunity enough to walk into a roomful of deadly germs, be a nice and clean person for others.

Kindness and precaution won’t cost you much more than a little discomfort as of now. But if this pandemic spreads we are all in for tough times ahead. So let us not join our hands, but stand by each other (at a distance) in this fight against coronavirus pandemic.

The views expressed are the author’s own.