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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : The COVID-19 pandemic, food and socializing


Source: The Hindu


  • Prelims: Current events of national importance, Government policies, Covid-19, pandemic treaty).
  • Mains GS Paper II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementations etc



  • Study by CMIE-CPHS (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy which conducts Consumer Pyramids Household Surveys) before and during the pandemic (16th wave for the period January-April 2019 to the 23rd wave for the period May 2021-August 2021).
    • It simultaneously determines the incidence of COVID-19 and shares of food expenditure and socializing.
  • Arthur Schopenhauer(German philosopher): Life swings like a pendulum backward and forward between pain and boredom.”





  • According to the WHO, a pandemic is declared when a new disease for which people do not have immunity spreads around the world beyond expectations.


  • An epidemic is a large outbreak, one that spreads among a population or region.
  • It is less severe than pandemic due to a limited area of spread.



  • The novel coronavirus outbreak in 2019-2020 with the nickname COVID-19 is a new strain of viruses which can cause fever, cough, breathing difficulties, pneumonia and even death in humans.
  • WHO: It declared COVID-19 infections as a public health emergency of international concern and later called it a pandemic.
  • RNA virus: Coronavirus consists of an RNA genome and is one of the largest in the RNA family.
  • Single stranded: Coronaviruses are enveloped and contain single-stranded positive-sense RNA.


Negative impact of Covid-19:

  • Lay-offs of the employed
  • Deaths on a massive scale
  • Mobility restrictions
  • Closure of cinema halls, restaurants
  • Restrictions on the scale of wedding ceremonies
  • Other forms of socializing


Study based on eight waves of by CMIE-CPHS (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy which conducts Consumer Pyramids Household Surveys):

  • Incidence and socializing: It simultaneously determines the incidence of COVID-19 and shares of food expenditure and socializing.
  • The incidence of COVID-19: It is driven largely by the source of transmission and the length/speed of transmission.
  • The COVID-19 incidence determines the share of food expenditure
  • Two together: They determine the share of socializing expenditure of a household.


Impact of lay-offs and interrupted food supply chains:

  • Income and food price spike: It caused substantial income losses and food price spikes,
  • Low-income households: They barely maintained their subsistence household expenditure.
  • Engel’s law: Share of food expenditure rises as income falls.
    • Further aggravated by food price spikes.


Impact on socialization:

  • Due to budget constraint: A higher share of food expenditure is expected to lower that of socializing expenditure.


How will socializing expenditure rise?

  • If the wealthy absorb these shocks and still have a large share of discretionary funds.
    • Their socializing expenditure may rise to break out of a monotonous and boring lifestyle.
  • Income, food prices and preferences for socializing: simultaneously determine the share of socializing expenditure.


Urban-rural contrast:

  • Rural:
    • Trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic was greater,
    • Employment and income losses
    • Food price spikes were more pervasive
    • Preferences and opportunities for socializing were far more wide-ranging
    • The share of food expenditure fell but at a diminishing rate
    • Rural areas witnessed an expansion of outdoor facilities for eating and celebration of weddings etc
    • Growing preference for socializing.
  • Urban:
    • The incidence of COVID-19 rose with per capita expenditure but at a diminishing rate in urban India.
    • The share of food expenditure rose but at a diminishing rate.
    • The share of socializing expenditure exhibited the same pattern as the share of food expenditure
    • Households spend more on food
    • A higher amount is spent on socializing.
    • Despite higher food expenditure they managed more socializing.


Impact on wealthy:

  • More likely to fall prey to COVID-19 infections
  • Allocation of food: Their allocation of food expenditure rose
  • The more affluent traveled more: they were also more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus
  • Their share of food expenditure rose because their income losses weakened the cushion against food price spikes
  • Essential food: They could afford their essential food intake
  • Negative effect of rising per capita expenditure on socializing: It was more than offset at higher per capita expenditure, because of their stronger preference for socializing.


Impact on mental health due to COVID-19:(by The Lancet Psychiatry, November, 2022):

  • Psychological stress
  • Depression
  • Loss of life satisfaction
  • The loss of family members due to COVID-19 infections is often shattering and even results in suicidal tendencies.



Way Forward.

  • Disruptions in energy and fertilizer supply due to the COVID-19 and Ukraine war and the continuing surge in food prices have entrenched inflationary expectations that call for decisive policy intervention.
  • An overhaul of the Public Distribution System and, specifically, more stringent regulation of diversion of food supply by PDS shops to the market are imperative.
  • The access to qualified psychologists, psychiatrists, appropriate medicines and social networks is a need.
    • As these privileges are not readily accessible in India’s rural villages.



Q. Critically examine the role of WHO in providing global health security during the COVID-19 Pandemic.(UPSC 2020)  (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)