Pandemic fatigue portends grim scenario if people are stubborn

by BERNAMA / pic by TMR FILE

KUALA LUMPUR – “It wasn’t easy to tell my mother that she tested positive for COVID-19. The whole family accepted it as God’s will. It is just that we feel miserable because we complied with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) but some people acted selfishly and ignored the SOPs, causing my mother to become a victim of the pandemic.”

Those were the agonising words of 61-year-old pensioner Nin Zairani Mohd Ali, the daughter of Sabariah Ahmad, 85, who died of COVID-19 on May 17 after a two-week battle in Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL).

She and her family did not expect her healthy and strong mother to be infected with the virus and to succumb to it.

After all, she had complied with SOPs and did not venture out of the house.

It is understood that Sabariah was infected by her son, who had come to Kuala Lumpur from Kuantan to undergo a medical examination at the National Heart Institute (IJN). He stayed with his mother for two days.

“We are not blaming our elder brother because after his check-up, he received a call saying that the surau he visited in Kuantan earlier was closed after a few worshippers tested positive for COVID-19.

“It was learnt that those worshippers knew they were positive and were wearing the quarantine wristband but still visited the surau,” she told Bernama.

Expressing her disappointment with some people’s attitude of underestimating the pandemic, Nin Zairani said the threat is very real and any lapse in observing SOPs could be fatal, as shown by her mother’s case.

The question is how long this issue of SOP violation will drag on. Why are many people letting their guard down despite the surge in COVID-19 cases?

We often see groups of people paying little heed to the SOPs for preventing the spread of the deadly virus.

It is not uncommon to see people wearing face masks incorrectly, such as placing the mask under their chin, ignoring physical distancing measures at public places and going out unnecessarily.

In a recent Facebook post, Terengganu Health director Dr Nor Azimi Yunus said the infection rate had increased in Terengganu because people were not observing SOPs, causing daily cases to spike to three digits and new clusters to emerge.

She shared several examples of COVID-19 cases in Terengganu caused by neglecting SOPs, including hanging out with friends, breaking fast together, and cooking in groups.

Is this symptomatic of pandemic fatigue? The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines pandemic fatigue as an expected and natural response to a prolonged public crisis – not at least because the severity and scale of the COVID-19 pandemic have called for the implementation of an invasive measure with unprecedented impacts on the daily lives of everyone, including those who have not been directly affected by the virus itself.

Social media postings showed that some netizens had grown tired of the new normal and were blatantly breaching SOPs. However, are they aware of the mental and physical challenges faced by the country’s frontliners, who have been working tirelessly to fight COVID-19 since it hit our shores early last year?

People should not just think about themselves but should stay focused on the common battle to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Yesterday, Malaysia recorded its highest ever number of daily COVID-19 cases at 6,075, with the death toll increasing to 2,040 after 46 deaths were reported over a 24-hour period.

A total of 559 cases were in the intensive care unit, with 303 requiring ventilator support.

The number of new clusters also hit a record high yesterday at 22, with eight involving workplaces, seven in the community, six linked to religious events, and one involving an educational institution.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has expressed concern over the emergence of new variants of concern (VOCs) as many patients did not show any symptoms and, in fact, their COVID-19 screening tests often came back negative even though some patients were at the critical stage.

Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Universiti Putra Malaysia senior lecturer Associate Prof Dr Haliza Abdul Rahman said that in terms of infections per million of the population, Malaysia has surpassed India.

However, she said Malaysia is not the same as India because the former’s population density is lower and the health system is much better than India’s.

However, if people are still ignorant or stubborn and continue to violate SOPs, daily cases may continue to spike, thus burdening the frontliners who are still struggling to fight the pandemic.

There is no other way than people coming together in this battle and adhere to SOPs. Each one of us should play our role. The people need to embrace the tagline Kita Jaga Kita, and take care of each other.