‘Caution Fatigue’ May Lead To Spike In COVID-19 Cases, Warn Experts

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New Delhi: Fear of contracting COVID-19 and stress over a ‘disrupted life’ is a potent cocktail that has led to ‘caution fatigue’ and ‘avoidance behaviour’, say experts.

With signs of the resolve to adhere to physical distancing, wearing masks and maintaining hygiene protocol flagging ahead of Diwali, there may be a resurgence in novel coronavirus infections. Experts fear this will stall the progress of curbing the disease, The New Indian Express (TNIE) reported quoting PTI.

“Yes, people are definitely getting tired but unfortunately the virus is not,” Prabhdeep Kaur, deputy director at Chennai’s ICMR-National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE), told PTI.

Although there is a decline in active cases and test positivity in India, a large proportion of the population is still susceptible to infection, she warned.

There is a risk of resurgence unless people wear masks, maintain social distance and avoid gatherings.

“The virus is here to stay and we have to adopt certain behavioural changes for the long term. If we become complacent, the virus will continue to spread and we may see a resurgence of cases,” the epidemiologist told PTI.

Large crowds are thronging the markets on account of Diwali and people are getting together for social and religious gatherings throwing caution to the wind.

Psychologist Shweta Sharma told PTI that people have already reached a higher stage of fear and anxiety in the pandemic and this is the reason for their “avoidance behaviour” as far as precautionary measures are concerned.

“Motivational factors are also important to increase any desirable behaviour but in this situation where people are not sure about their motivational factor due to uncertain causes of getting contamination, it’s becoming a forcing factor for them,” Sharma, a consultant clinical psychologist at the Columbia Asia Hospital in Gurgaon, told PTI.

She said it was natural to develop a sense of complacency over a period of time as people see their efforts have not led to the desired result.

“They are not even sure whether their efforts are making any sense or not. So the psychological tendency of complacent behaviour has increased where people are not concerned about the results and are acting in autopilot mode,” Sharma, who is also a counsellor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Health Center, added.

According to economist and epidemiologist Ramanan Laxminarayan the compliance to COVID-19 protocols has fallen significantly as it is a challenge to continually wear masks and maintain physical distance.

He noted that there has been a decline in the number of infections post-September in many urban areas, likely because of the build-up of pockets of population immunity that have slowed down transmission, PTI reported.

“However, the virus continues to spread both in parts of urban areas that have been unaffected so far as well as in rural India which is where the bulk of the population lives,” the director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy in Washington told PTI.

According to a recent survey by Prabhdeep Kaur and her colleagues in the Greater Chennai Corporation area of Chennai, nearly 72 per cent people in slums and 64 per cent in non-slums did not wear masks.

The survey, jointly conducted by the GCC and ICMR-NIE, covered 3,600 individuals in 60 streets, including 1,800 individuals each in the slum and non-slum areas.

“We cannot let the virus determine the trajectory in the coming months as the course of the pandemic will depend on various factors. As we have learned from many countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and New Zealand, it is possible to keep the virus under control if we implement the test, trace, isolate strategy and if people cooperate and accept COVID appropriate behaviour,” the ICMR-NIE epidemiologist told PTI.

 

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