World Health Organization warns of 'COVID-19 fatigue'
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that eight months since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Europe, people are experiencing "COVID-19 fatigue."
Hans Henri P. Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe, said: "Citizens have made huge sacrifices to contain" the virus, which has come at "extraordinary costs" and has "exhausted all of us."
"Although fatigue is measured in different ways, and levels vary per country, it is now estimated to have reached over 60 percent in some cases," Kluge said in a statement following a high-level virtual meeting on addressing pandemic fatigue. The figure was based on the aggregated survey data from countries across the region.
A surge in COVID-19 cases is leading to rising apathy, which could spell danger ahead. While Kluge said the "levels of fatigue are to be expected," the rising levels of apathy come as the number of new infections surge across Europe. France, Spain and the United Kingdom are now recording more new cases than they did during the peak of the first wave, forcing some governments to take action.
In the French capital Paris, all bars are shut from Tuesday, after the government raised the city's coronavirus alert to its highest level. The Spanish capital Madrid, meanwhile, entered lockdown over the weekend.
The situation could further deteriorate as the northern hemisphere enters winter and social interactions are forced indoors. The spread of the coronavirus could be further compounded by seasonal influenza, creating a "twindemic," which could potentially overwhelm hospitals.
Kluge laid out three strategies to turn things around and reinvigorate efforts to tackle the challenges that COVID-19 presents.
First, he urged governments to take the pulse of their community regularly to better understand how people are feeling. He said that more effective policies and response strategies can be deployed by taking individual experiences and cultural nuances into consideration.
Secondly, he called on governments and communities to work together in co-creating intervention measures. He quoted Denmark as an example, where as universities reopened, one municipality worked with young students to determine the most appropriate way to ensure the student experience is not affected while also protecting communities.
"Consultation, participation and an acknowledgement of the hardships that people are facing are key if we are to have truly effective policies," Kluge said.
Thirdly, he encouraged the development of new and innovative ideas for prevention, especially as the holiday season approaches.