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COVID-19

What can Europe do to battle ‘pandemic fatigue’?

The World Health Organization warned European countries Tuesday about "pandemic fatigue" which it says threatens the continent's ability to tackle the coronavirus.

What can Europe do to battle 'pandemic fatigue'?
Empty seats and tables of a street cafe are seen at Alexanderplatz square in Berlin on March 16, 2020. AFP

“Although fatigue is measured in different ways, and levels vary per country, it is now estimated to have reached over 60 percent in some cases,” WHO Europe director Dr Hans Kluge said.

He said this is based on “aggregated survey data from countries across the region.”

Citizens have made “huge sacrifices” over the last eight months to try and contain the coronavirus, he said in a statement.

“In such circumstances it is easy and natural to feel apathetic and demotivated, to experience fatigue.” 

So what can governments do?

Kluge called on European authorities to listen to the public and work with them in “new and innovative ways” to reinvigorate the fight against Covid-19, which is on the increase throughout Europe.

He cited a local authority in the UK which has consulted communities to gauge their feelings, and a municipality in Denmark where students have been involved in drawing up restrictions that allow them to return to university.

Turkey has employed social media polls to understand public sentiment, while Germany's government “has consulted philosophers, historians, theologians, and behavioural and social scientists,” Kluge said.

The WHO's Europe region, which encompasses 53 countries including Russia, has seen more than 6.2 million cases and nearly 241,000 deaths related to the virus, according to the organisation's official statistics.

READ MORE: Around Europe – How countries are battling to prevent a second wave of Covid-19

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COVID-19

‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

Though Covid has not been a nationwide problem in Switzerland during recent several months, the virus is circulating again and rates of contamination are expected to soar in the coming weeks.

'Over a million people' in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

While the new wave has not been expected to hit before fall or winter,  Swiss health officials now say 15 percent of Swiss population — more than 1 million people — could catch the virus before then.

This is a large number, considering that a total of 3.7 million people in Switzerland got infected since the beginning of the pandemic on February 24th, 2020.

“More than 80,000 new contaminations per week” are expected in the next two months, according to Tanja Stadler, the former head of the Covid-19 Task Force — much more than during the past two summers, when the rate of infections slowed down.

At the moment, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reports 24,704 new cases in the past seven days — double of what it was in April.

“The numbers are expected to continue to rise. Note that most of infected people will not be tested, so the number of confirmed cases will be smaller on paper than in reality”, Stadler added.

Although according to FOPH, nearly all cases in Switzerland (99 percent) are caused by Omicron and its sub-variants, which are less severe that the original Covid viruses, “more vulnerable people are likely to end up in hospital, and long Covid cases are also likely to rise”, she said.

Stadler also noted that Omicron virus can’t be compared with the flu, “because we observe long-term consequences much more often during an infection with Omicron than during the flu. Also, Covid can trigger very large waves, even in summer, while large flu outbreaks are rare at this time of year”.

There is, however, some positive news.

“The most recent data shows that 97 percent of the adult population in Switzerland has antibodies against Covid thanks to vaccinations and previous infections”, Stadler said.

Also, “in the long term, things will stabilise. But in the years to come, there will probably be waves in the summer too”.

READ MORE: UPDATE: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?

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