The first coronavirus case was detected in China sometime in December 2019. By mid-January multiple countries had confirmed cases. As of now, there are over hundred thousand cases across 104 countries and over four thousand fatalities. This outbreak has been declared a global pandemic. Social media conversations in India are reflecting the growing concern among people reacting to the topic which now dominates headlines everyday, everywhere.
Reactions were first noted late in January as the news about the crisis in Wuhan emerged. The biggest trigger was the government’s decision to evacuate Indian students from Wuhan.
There was a spike in conversations towards the end of January leading into February, as the news and rumours about the Wuhan crisis caught attention. Temporary suspension of e-visa facility for Chinese nationals and residents in Feb 2 drew a lot of comments. There were also speculations about possible causes of the outbreak in China, with some blaming the varied non-vegetarian diet and advocating vegetarianism.
The next few weeks in February saw a lull in the chatter, perhaps crowded out by Delhi elections, CAA/NRC violence and the US President Trump’s visit to India. Conversation have picked up again early in March with the Prime Minister’s decision to stay away from Holi gatherings in the light of the growing number of cases being reported from India.
Comparison of the social conversation and news reports online indicates that only in the recent weeks have the two started moving in tandem. The initial spike in conversation was not driven by the news coming in. The initial responses were both to government announcements and information from varied online sources. Most of February saw a lull both in the media reporting of the crisis and conversations on the topic as other news grabbed attention in this period. Off late the conversations are responding to formal reporting from the media.
To find out more, download this new publication by Geeta Lobo (Lead Social Intelligence & Analytics, Ipsos in India)