Key Messages

The current COVID-19 pandemic is spooling out to be a calamity of unprecedented proportions, causing loss of lives and devastating economies globally. A disaster of this nature calls for well thought out Government interventions along with responsible individual behaviour to contain the damage. Across the globe, reckless and irresponsible behaviour of individuals has been responsible to a large extent for the exponential growth rate of the COVID-19 graph.

We conducted a study to understand the behavioural patterns of COVID-19 patients in India. We analysed 72 initial COVID-19 cases from two Indian states—Karnataka and Kerala. Our study exposed risky and irresponsible behaviour on the part of 53% of the sample. Some of the carriers of coronavirus—who had travelled to India from infected countries post the outbreak, while some had attended a religious congregation with foreign participants—were even found to indulge in as many as 32 interactions before being tested positive, with a number of visits to public places. This finding poses severe questions on the viability of any measure left solely to the judgement of individuals. In the unlock phase, it is essential to strike a balance between individual accountability and state interventions. Emphasis on human behaviour is crucial while framing policies, so that they can nudge citizens to behave responsibly.