Police move in to disperse protesters in Trafalgar Square in London on September 26, 2020, at a ‘We Do Not Consent!’ mass rally against vaccination and government restrictions designed to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, including the wearing of masks and taking tests for the virus.

JUSTIN TALLIS | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — Rising levels of “Covid-19 fatigue” are being seen in Europe, the regional director of the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

Hans Kluge said that the “huge sacrifices” made to contain the coronavirus had 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,” Kluge added in a statement.

“Based on aggregated survey data from countries across the region, we can see, not surprisingly, that fatigue among those surveyed is increasing. Although fatigue is measured in different ways, and levels vary per country, it is now estimated to have reached over 60% in some cases,” he said.

While such levels of fatigue were to be expected after months of lockdowns, uncertainty and disruption to normal life, Kluge said it was possible, and necessary, to “reinvigorate and revive efforts to tackle the evolving Covid-19 challenges that we face.”

Europe has registered over 6.2 million coronavirus cases and over 240,000 deaths since the pandemic emerged in the region in February, according to WHO data. After months of arduous lockdowns in which most social and economic life was shut down, measures were gradually relaxed over the summer.

The region is now experiencing a second wave of infections but governments are putting more emphasis on recommending good personal hygiene, social-distancing measures and efforts to curtail social activity, rather than a repeat of full lockdowns.

Adherence to the rules by the general public in Europe is a concern for policymakers with rule flouting and public protests against restrictive measures a constant battle.

Kluge called on policymakers to engage with communities when it came to devising and implementing measures to curb the spread of the virus, saying “it is essential that we respond together and that communities own response policies with authorities.” 

Religious celebrations and other social gatherings needed to be approached in creative ways, Kluge said, citing the virtual breaking of fasting during Ramadan, and floating cinemas that minimized social contact while allowing for cultural events to continue.

“As we enter the coming celebration season, we will need to combat fatigue by meeting the needs of citizens in new, innovative ways,” he said. 

“By balancing science, social and political needs we can develop precautionary measures that are culturally accepted.”

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