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It’s time to flatten the pandemic stereotyping

Why in news?

“Super Spreader” means an individual who transmits infection to many others than is typical  It emerged in the context of the research on transmission of a wide range of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, Ebola, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which shows that 80% of the infections in a population are transmitted by only 20% of those infected the so called 20/80 rule

Why Is it difficult to contain the spread?

Challenging aspect of this pandemic has been the large proportion of asymptomatic infected patients who can shed high virus loads before experiencing symptoms and can spread infection to many contacts without their knowledge. Because of this complexity, practices such as universal masking, social distancing, and hand hygiene have become key to containing the pandemic.

Examples of super spreaders

Prominent examples of such groups include those who attended the Tablighi Jamaat religious congregation in Delhi, workers providing essential services (vegetable/fruit vendors, pharmacists, garbage collectors, grocery and milk sellers, bus conductors), and migrant workers returning to their hometowns

Stereotyping

  • For example, as vegetable vendors are labelled widely as super spreaders, it becomes a shared belief among sections of the society that they spread virus.
  • Further  one may attach the images of the stereotype to a random person whose perceived characteristics match that of a member of the stereotyped group
  • Stereotyping a group will have undesirable consequences for its individual members, if the label carries negative evaluation
  • Research documents a range of negative consequences (direct and indirect) associated with negative stereotyping, such as discrimination and hostility, negative attitudes, and a lingering effect of lack of self-­ control and aggression
  • Incidents of people, particularly Muslims, being harassed for their suspected affiliation with Tablighi Jamaat have been reported

Government support is key

  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had urged the citizens to “not label any community or area for the spread of COVID­19
  • the governments could provide them cost ­free masks and sanitisers and support the families of infected individuals. Public officials and the media could also refrain from the indiscriminate use of the term super spreaders, when referring to these groups, to avoid the resultant negative stereotyping
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September 2022
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