PANDEMIC FATIGUE & THE NEED TO REINVIGORATE PUBLIC VIGILANCE TO FLATTEN THE CURVE OF COVID-19

Many nations around the World are currently experiencing a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic reportedly caused by a new and more deadly strain of the virus which has led to more deaths globally.

Here in Nigeria, the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 officially announced last December ( 17/12/ 2020) that the Country has entered a second wave and warned that the Country does not just stands the risk losing the gains of the hard work put into combating the first wave of the pandemic, but also losing more citizens if people continue to disregard the non-pharmaceutical recommendations including the use of face masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing.

Our Correspondent engages experts on “pandemic fatigue” one of the factors identified as responsible for the disregard of covid-19 preventive measures globally and the surge in Covid-19 disease, how Nigerians can overcome it, flatten the curve and prevent more Covid-19 related deaths.

WHAT IS PANDEMIC FATIGUE

According to experts, Pandemic fatigue is the state of being worn out by recommended precautions and restrictions relating to a pandemic, often due to the length of the restrictions.

The experts say pandemic fatigue differs from post-viral fatigue including achy muscles, brain fog and constant tiredness which many people who have had even mild cases of COVID-19 can have for months or even years after recovering from the disease.

According to the Lagos State Covid-19 Incidence Pillar Lead, Dr Folarin Opawoye, being in a constant state of vigilance could lead to weariness, making people to become complacent over the new normal and abandon precautionary measures, a situation which he said has led to a further surge in infection and the increasing covid-19 related deaths currently been witnessed in Nigeria and globally.

COMPLACENCY ABOUT WEARING MASKS AND PHYSICAL DISTANCING

Although face-coverings and physical distancing are still mandatory in public spaces, a move round communities in Lagos and other parts of the country show that people are  either not wearing masks or wearing them ineffectively, some put the masks on their chins instead of covering their noses and mouths with it, some cover their mouths and leave the noses open.

It was also observed that the ease of restrictions prior to the second wave of the virus has made many people to become complacent over the social/physical distancing advisory and even sanitizing/hand washing.

COLLATERAL DAMAGE FROM THE PANDEMIC

As of January 9, 2020, the Covid-19 statistics from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC shows that 99,0 63  people have been infected, out of which 79, 417 have recovered and 1350 deaths have been recorded.

Many economies around the World, including Nigeria have gone into recession due to the impact of covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions.

INCREASE IN COMMUNITY SPREAD AND POSITIVITY RATE.

In Lagos, the State Epidemiologist and Covid-19 Incidence Manager, Dr Ismail Abdulsalam revealed that the second wave of the virus kicked-in in October with more complications and there has been an increase in community spread of the virus as positivity rate is on the increase with data from samples collected in mid-December jumping to 12.2% from 3-5%.

“Cases requiring intensive care units here have also increased and the number of deaths is also on the increase compared to what we have going by the statistics in early October, the implication of this data is that we need to take extra care regardless of the type of person we are talking to, let us start proper use of the face mask”  Dr Abdulsalam warned.

STATISTICS FROM THE NCDC ALSO SHOW THAT OTHER STATES ARE ALSO EXPERIENCING SIMILAR SITUATIONS.

With the second wave now fully in force in Nigeria and many other countries, coupled with the report of a new strain of covid-19, stakeholders are apprehensive that these numbers are likely to continue to rise globally and these will exert a huge toll on human health causing uncertainty about both the present and the future.

To overcome pandemic fatigue and reinvigorate public vigilance, Dr Opawoye who pointed out that there is no treatment for Covid19 as at now, advised people to adhere to recommended protocols as covid-19 currently has no cure.

“As I speak, there is no drug that directly affects the virus, what we do in the isolation centres is to treat people based on their symptoms, we offer them supportive care and reduce inflammation of the lungs, there’s no specific treatment and there’s no cure for covid-19 for now.

The reality is that we are having a sharp spike in the number of cases, even more than we had initially, again some people will die from this, hopefully, majority will survive, but every death is a hundred percent loss and so, we cannot just throw caution to the wind, it’s been a long slug, we are all tired, but we still need to keep protecting ourselves”

IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON MENTAL HEALTH 

Both Doctors Abdulsalam and Opawoye agreed that people need a lot of psychological and psychosocial support, to overcome the challenges thrown up by the pandemic, including the emotional toll of coping with some of the issues emerging from the lockdown, such as loss of income for some and pay cuts for others which may become overwhelming and lead to or exacerbate mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

Noting that those challenges and stresses may have been eased for some when Covid-19 restrictions were eased, both Doctors Abdulsalam and Opawoye agree and recommended a lot of psychological and psychosocial support for the people to prevent a rise in cases of serious mental health illness.

Amidst fear that the new strain of the virus may further complicate already established treatment routine, the experts stressed that the three W’s are most important if people are to come together: wear a mask, wash hands and frequently disinfect commonly touched surfaces, and watch their distance from other people to avoid another lockdown which may be counterproductive for the nation’s economy and the mental wellbeing of many citizens.

They urged Nigerians to comply with preventive and safety advisories as any form of complacency could jeopardize all the success recorded so far in the fight against COVID-19.

Compiled by: Omolara Omosanya

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