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Density, Distancing, Informal Settlements and the Pandemic

Demographic density, particularly in the low-income settlements in urban India, is posing some unprecedented challenges to governance for containing the COVID-19 contagion. Through a case-based discussion of density, it is argued that the idea of containment through distancing is rather paradoxical. On the one hand it pushes for more proximation or clustering of the poor in congested urban spaces, while on the other it deepens a sense of estrangement in an already fragmented social milieu.

In recent times we have frequently come across the usage of the term “social distancing” in healthcare advisories and official mandates, as a possible precaution against the spatio-temporal diffusion of the COVID-19 contagion. The term social distancing, which is commonly used in social sciences to indicate a practice of maintaining distance between different social groups, is used with a very specific connotation in the parlance of medical sciences and/or healthcare recommendations in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak. It refers to the maintaining of a physical distance between two persons in order to prevent transmission of the virus. Notwithstanding whether or not this is the only viable choice at this hour, an emerging debate is around the interchangeable usage of the term “social” distancing for “physical” distancing that is likely to exude a sense of isolation and thereby create psychological repercussions (Gale 2020).

When Disease Follows Density

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Updated On : 18th May, 2020

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