Covid-19: Experts say pandemic fatigue making people less vigilant
Members of the public check their temperatures before entering a Covid-19 screening area in Petaling Jaya January 18, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

SEREMBAN, Jan 23 — It has been a year since Covid-19 affected countries all over the world and when the crisis will end, is still full of uncertainty. In Malaysia there is no sign of 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 Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Radzniwan A. Rashid said ‘pandemic fatigue’ could be among factors causing some individuals to let down their guards in curbing Covid-19 transmission.

“The fatigue is driven by the various phases of the movement control order (MCO) 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 seems to be no end to the pandemic,” he told Bernama here, recently.

On January 16, Malaysia’s daily cases topped 4,000 for the first time at 4,029 since the pandemic hit the country. As of Thursday, there are 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.

A health worker uses a swab to collect a sample for Covid-19 testing from a man in Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur, January 18, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
A health worker uses a swab to collect a sample for Covid-19 testing from a man in Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur, January 18, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

“Currently, some abide by the standard operating procedures (SOP) 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 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

On January 16, Malaysia’s daily cases topped 4,000 for the first time at 4,029 since the pandemic hit the country. As of Thursday, there are 42,814 active cases with the death toll now at 660. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
On January 16, Malaysia’s daily cases topped 4,000 for the first time at 4,029 since the pandemic hit the country. As of Thursday, there are 42,814 active cases with the death toll now at 660. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

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

“But nowadays they are lackadaisical, 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 Mohd Radzniwan 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.

When asked if there is a different set of laws for leaders and the man on the street, Malaysian Academic Association Congress (MAAC) vice-president Prof Dr Ridhuan Tee Abdullah said the people should be smart not to follow the footsteps of leaders who do not show good examples.

“Why must they follow them? The people need to understand the tagline kita jaga kita, so take care of each other. Politicians cannot be emulated as long as they have no integrity,” he said while agreeing that the biased action taken by the authorities had also contributed to the sudden increase in cases.

“There should be no discrimination… action must be taken if one has committed an offence regardless if the person is a minister.

“If only the people are being punished, eventually they will have no respect for the law and the situation will worsen,” he said adding that to control the virus, the leaders and the people must be together in adhering to the SOPs.

“The problem is there is too much politicking. The virus may hit anyone regardless who you are and several leaders and ministers have tested positive with Covid-19.” he added. — Bernama