Politicians across the globe currently deal with something everyone of sound mind and body could have easily predicted: pandemic fatigue. No one, not even the greatest of hermits, wanted to be locked up alone or with family members for an extreme period without some sort of relief from the monotony. Humans desire some sort of interaction with the outside world even if it involves the smallest amount of so-called normalcy on a semi-regular basis.
“Since the virus arrived in the European region eight months ago, citizens have made huge sacrifices to contain Covid-19,” Dr. Hans Henri Kluge with the World Health Organization said earlier this month after suggesting 60% of the globe had a version of pandemic fatigue. “It has come at an extraordinary cost, which has exhausted all of us, regardless of where we live, or what we do. In such circumstances, it is easy and natural to feel apathetic and demotivated, to experience fatigue. I believe it is possible to reinvigorate and revive efforts to tackle the evolving Covid-19 challenges we face.”
One method the WHO decided to not support was the idea of a lockdown to keep everyone inside. WHO special adviser on COVID-19 Dr. David Nabarro told The Spectator he favored a “middle way’ featuring some sort of robust coronavirus defense including testing, contact tracings, and isolation but not a centralized national lockdown.
“We think lockdowns only serve one purpose and that is to give you a bit of breathing space,” Nabarro hypothesized last week to Andrew Neil by pointing out lockdowns just put a pause on the virus. “While you’ve got that breathing space you should be really building up your testing, building up your contact tracing, building up your local organization so that as you release lockdown you’re bound to get more cases, but you can deal with it really, really elegantly.”
Perhaps the most insightful commentary from Nabarro involved acknowledgment the public felt rather tossed around by politicians in the coronavirus response. He hoped for uniform policies across the globe regarding coronavirus so as to not confuse people or likely cause heartburn for politicians on why X country or state is doing this, while Y country is doing that. Uniform measures might relax the fatigue and virus spread.
It’s doubtful any sort of unanimous decision will ever be reached.
CapX’s John Ashmore derided the British government’s handling of the virus with its Tier system unlike the simplicity of staying home from March. He also noted with amusement the fact Labour politicians in Liverpool and Greater Manchester are united against any sort of national lockdown putting themselves crossways with national Labour leaders (possibly one of the rare times those two municipalities agree on anything except perhaps the dislike of Arsenal!). Meanwhile, the UK government’s science adviser wants a three-week lockdown so everything can reset. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government appeared hesitant to any new lockdown.
Germany’s government encouraged people to stop panic buying with Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner promising Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung politicians, bureaucrats, and business owners knew how to handle any runs on supplies. A third of France is under a month-long curfew with government permits required for dog walking, going to work, or visiting a relative’s home. Italian gyms and other so-called “non-essential” shops appear headed for another shutdown.
Belgium’s coronavirus problems suggest their government hoped to use a version of Nabarro’s middle-ground approach albeit not within the notion of contact tracing, local organization, and testing. The government enacted some restrictions but resisted more stringent levels in hopes of avoiding some sort of pandemic fatigue.
“[T]here are two enemies: the virus, but also isolation, depression,” Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke said to RTL TVI Sunday morning while defending its relaxed curfew of “only” midnight to 6 a.m. and the closing of bars and restaurants. “We must therefore combine the fight against the virus with the possibility of the citizens to still see people, to move around, to take a stroll in the streets at night. There are also people who work until 10 pm. So that’s one of the reasons why we said to ourselves that we was not going to make life impossible. But at the same time, people have to be extra careful. ”
How people avoid fatigue when they have no place to go has yet to be determined. The general consensus in America is pandemic fatigue increased virus cases.
However, the solution amongst politicians varies. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins encouraged people to put personal restrictions on their lives mainly because he cannot order people to stay indoors due to the near-dictatorial pandemic powers of Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Abbott allowed some bars to reopen with county judge approval this month. California’s mandatory guidelines on in-person family gatherings include requiring only three households, keeping things outdoors, and reducing gathering length. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will allow ski resorts to open next month but he’s not planning to give state money to municipalities which don’t enforce his rules on Orthodox Jewish communities.
The response to all government action is relatively consistent: lawsuits and protests. A Hasidic wedding is set for tomorrow in the Williamsburg neighborhood of New York City. Cuomo is also under lawsuit for his restrictions on Orthodox Jewish gatherings. Parents protested a Cleveland-area school district’s decision to keep online-only education in place through December last week with one person holding up a sign demanding hybrid school modeling. Texas has seen multiple lawsuits over Abbott’s orders on restrictions which failed to get anywhere. California parents aren’t happy with school closures.
“I am so tired of everything,” Indra Singh told The New York Times. “Is it going to be over? I want it to be over.”
Perhaps a better model of tackling pandemic fatigue involves personal responsibility. I practice social distancing, mask-wearing, and limit contact with others. The Dallas Stars watch party I attended during their Stanley Cup run featured few guests and I made sure I knew everyone and their recent activities. I sit away from others should I go to a restaurant and won’t be around people (particularly my elderly parents) if I feel even slightly ill. Friends of mine do the same. Chick-fil-A is not opening dining rooms to guests. Other shops required masks long before the government did. And, yes, personal responsibility means people won’t follow the rules or guidelines. They’re taking the risk on themselves and it’s likely I would limit my contact with those who are too cavalier regarding virus precautions. Going outside on walks or runs remains an option in fighting pandemic fatigue, as is the Xbox or PS4. I do miss hockey games, though.
It will be up to individuals to decide how to handle pandemic fatigue, not government. Crashing the economy (again) will not solve the issue either.