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Growth in ‘Pandemic Fatigue’ and non-compliance – Study

CAPE TOWN – A recent study revealed a worrying trend pointing to lower public compliance with health safety measures and ‘Pandemic Fatigue’ as South Africa desperately looks to avoid a second wave of Covid-19 infections.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the Human Sciences Research Council conducted a study  to investigate the use of face masks in public spaces in South Africa throughout the pandemic.

The research collected information via an online survey in multiple states from April through to September using the Moya Messenger app that saw nearly 8000 participants with findings demonstrating growing pandemic fatigue and complacency with easing of restrictions and lower lockdown levels.

One of the key findings were in the earlier parts of April, only 37 percent wore a mask when they went out, however, the number only rose to 70 percent in July to September.  20 percent of the remaining 30 percent said they wear a mask “most of the time”, 7 percent said “some of the time” and 2 percent revealed they never do or not often wear a mask out in public while the remaining 1 percent did not want to say.

The other key finding was many believing the threat of the coronavirus was exaggerated with the study finding in April, during hard lockdown, a third (31 – 33 percent) believed the threat was exaggerated with the figure growing to 41 percent by September.

The study also discovered the fear of Covid-19 declining with frequent feelings of fear remained high from April through to July ranging between 44 and 47 percent while from August to early September the feeling of fear dropped to 31 percent with the study pointing out that the considerable decline may be the reason behind changes in risk perception measures as lockdown restriction ease.

The researchers also looked into the trust South Africans had in their President and whether they felt he was doing a good job. Although 65 percent believed that the President was handing the Covid-19 pandemic which dropped by 20 percent since the level 5 lockdown which may also suggest the reduced compliance by the public with important and public health measures.

Professor Carin Runciman, Associate Professor at the Centre for Social Change says, ‘the findings point to a worrying growth in pandemic fatigue. The greater number of people that do not comply with public health measures, such as wearing masks in public, the greater the likelihood of a second wave in infections, as is currently occurring in Europe and the US. There is a need for strong and continued public health messaging that the threat posed from the virus is not over even though we are now at a lower alert level’.

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