Mask usage in Delhi’s slum clusters quadrupled, frequent hand-washing became nearly universal and time spent indoors doubled compared to the pre-Covid-19 period, according to a working paper on behavioural change and job loss during the lockdown.

Nine out of 10 respondents reported they weren’t smoking but it hasn’t been assessed whether most of them are non-smokers or quit smoking because of the Covid-19 crisis.

The findings of the working paper, by researchers at the Energy Policy Institute of the University of Chicago and the University of British Columbia, are based on a survey of 1,392 respondents in Delhi’s slum clusters engaged in different professions, including construction workers, drivers, salaried workers, skilled labourers, domestic workers, and street vendors.

The impact of the lockdown on their income and employment has been unprecedented, the researchers found.

Their weekly income dropped by 57% on an average, as working days were reduced by 73%. By early May, weekly income had fallen to zero for nine out of 10 of the respondents. Around 35% of the sample reported accessing Delhi government’s food assistance programme.

The Delhi government set up more than 500 assistance centres across the city to provide food (rice and dal) to those who needed it. These centres appear to have been well placed, as the average distance between individuals in the sample and the nearest government assistance centre is only 640 metres, researchers found.