Covid-19: 'Pandemic fatigue' making people less vigilant, say medical academicians

SEREMBAN (Bernama): It has been a year since Covid-19 affected countries all over the world and there is still a lot of uncertainty as to when the crisis will end.

In Malaysia, there is no sign of a decline in the number of positive cases and as the pandemic wears on, some people are getting tired of the new norm and not taking precautions to protect themselves.

Perhaps some assume they are immune to Covid-19 or has safety fatigue or burnout set in, that they are throwing caution to the wind?

Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) specialist clinic medical director Associate Prof Dr Mohd Radzniwan A. Rashid said "pandemic fatigue" could be among factors causing some individuals to let down their guard in curbing Covid-19 transmissions.

"The fatigue is driven by the various phases of the movement control order implemented by the government since March last year. When it was first enforced, people were generally enthusiastic to work together to flatten the Covid-19 curve.

"However, since September last year with inter-state travel more relaxed, coupled with the Sabah state election, there was a spike in positive cases. People grew tired as there seemed to be no end to the pandemic," he told Bernama.

On Jan 16, Malaysia's daily cases topped 4,000 for the first time at 4,029 since the pandemic hit the country. As of Thursday (Jan 21), there were 42,814 active cases with the death toll now at 660.

At one time, the country managed to flatten the curve of infection, reducing transmission of the virus in the community. So what had gone wrong with our strategy?

According to the USIM Medicine and Health Sciences Faculty lecturer, lack of self-control is the main factor leading to the increase in local infections.

"Currently, some abide by the standard operating procedures (SOPs) but some do not. Why? This is because some are feeling overwhelmed with still having to maintain a state of constant vigilance and to be reminded to observe physical distancing, wear a mask and so forth, is wearisome.

"Perhaps, some are getting bored of staying home for so long. Although certain rules have been relaxed, as they are now allowed to carry on with their leisure activities, business and others, these privileges are being abused," he said.

Although earlier, videos showing the condition of Covid-19 cases and frontliners battling the disease widely circulated on social media during the first MCO had helped raised public awareness, these are no longer effective.

Have we forgotten the patients’ illness severity and the hard work and sacrifice of health workers and frontliners in fighting Covid-19?

Dr Mohd Radzniwan said the recent surge in positive cases was also due to community’s complacency in continuing to comply with the restrictions

He said in the early stages of the MCO implementation, the people were concerned and followed closely the development of the Covid-19 situation, including sharing information and videos on social media that they were afraid to leave their homes.

"But nowadays, they are more lackasidal, the consequences of getting Covid-19 and the risks do not seem real to them. Our concern is the asymptomatic cases who go undetected and we cannot tell who these silent spreaders are, ” he said.

University of Malaya (UM) senior consultant psychiatrist, Assoc Prof Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin, who shares Dr Radzniwan's views that the pandemic fatigue had led to public non-compliance of the SOP, added that the indifferent attitude of certain parties had also caused anger and frustration among the community. - Bernama

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