President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his address to the nation on Sunday 30 May 2021 alluded to “pandemic fatigue” being the cause of some of the increases in infections over the past few weeks.

Pandemic fatigue has been identified as one of the phenomena that are behind the resurgence in the numbers of COVID-19 infections in South Africa. You’ve probably felt it too.

You’re probably tired of wearing a mask, sanitizing your hands every time you enter a different store or room. You’re tired of the routine, and this new normal, but it is exactly this state of irritation and frustration that we need to guard against – or risk driving a new wave of infections.


Medical experts have warned against pandemic fatigue for some time now. It is the dropping of our guard and the relaxing our stringent safety protocols to fend off the deadly virus.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has defined pandemic fatigue as:

  • A natural and expected reaction to sustained and unresolved adversity in people’s lives.
  • Expresses itself as emerging demotivation to engage in protection behaviours and seek COVID-19-related information and as complacency, alienation and hopelessness.
  • Evolving gradually over time and affected by a number of emotions, experiences and perceptions as well as the cultural, social, structural and legislative environment.

Before 2020 most of the world’s population wasn’t wearing masks, we weren’t sanitizing much and social distancing wasn’t even a thing. We, in fact, found ways to together and congregate in churches, bars, restaurants and clubs. The virus changed all of that and the change in behaviour has caused us to reevaluate our lifestyles and habits.

For some these changes in behaviour are proving too difficult to manage the longer the pandemic goes on for. So we take shortcuts, wash our hands less, slip our masks down below our chin and return to hugging and shaking hands more frequently. It’s exactly the kind of return to normal that we should be guarding against.

Psychologist Carisa Parrish, writing in the John Hopkins Medicine website, has offered some useful ways to avoid pandemic fatigue.

Here’s what you can do to ward off pandemic fatigue:

  1. Make a commitment
    You’ve committed to wearing a helmet when you go cycling or wearing a seatbelt when driving haven’t you? Making a commitment to safer behaviour is the first step towards avoiding pandemic fatigue
  2. Be open to change
    As we have seen with this pandemic, things can change from day to day and week to week. Lockdown levels can be moved up and down, and our freedoms can be curtailed at any point. It’s important to be open to changes in the regulations as new information becomes available. try to keep up!
  3. Practice precautions until they’re second nature
    Flossing your teeth and putting your kid in a car seat felt like a chore at first. But now it has become second nature. We’re creatures of habit. You may have noticed how quickly children have adapted their behaviour during this pandemic. Learn from the young ones.
  4. Keep masks and sanitizers handy
    We’ve all forgotten to take a mask at some point in the past year. It’s frustrating and can lead us to towards the path of pandemic fatigue. It’s important to keep a good supply of masks and sanitizers everywhere we go, in the car, at home, and at the office. The less we have to think about something, the easier it becomes to adhere to the rules.
  5. Use other people’s stories about COVID-19 to remind ourselves of the risks
    Many stories have been written about how people have suffered due to the pandemic. The more you read about it the more personal it becomes.
  6. Give your children the power to police you
    Alowing your kids to remind you to mask up and sanitize makes the process a lot easier on them and you. Like getting them to remind you to wear a seatbelt empowers them to choose safety first. It also makes it fun for them and you.


Presh JM Reporter

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