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The World Health Organization has said European countries will need to “move beyond biomedical science” to overcome Covid-19 as “pandemic fatigue” and new infections rapidly rise across the continent.
Hans Kluge, the WHO’s Europe director, said that while fatigue from months of uncertainty and disruption was measured differently in different countries, aggregated survey data from across the region suggested that in some cases it it had reached levels of over 60%.
Medical science alone would not be enough to get through the crisis, he warned, with authorities needing the “courage and empathy” to listen properly to the public and develop policies based on a better understanding of people’s needs and behaviours.
“Covid-19 is urging us to move beyond biomedical science in our response,” Kluge said. “We have an opportunity to maximise our community insights into behaviour, to integrate real community participation into public health policy.”
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the EU/EEA and UK have recorded 3.6m cases since the start of the pandemic eight months ago, with Spain (789 932), France (619 170) and the the UK (502 978) the worst affected.
After successfully containing the spread of the virus earlier this year through more or less strict – and economically damaging – nationwide lockdowns, many countries are struggling to stem a sudden resurgence of the virus since the summer.
Spain, with 319 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past 14 days, France (247), the the Czech Republic (311), the Netherlands (243), Belgium (220) and the UK (163) are among those facing soaring infection rates and introducing new restrictions.
Kluge said fatigue was natural. Citizens had made “huge sacrifices to contain Covid-19, at an extraordinary cost which has exhausted all of us”, he said. “In this protracted public health emergency, these levels of fatigue are to be expected.”
Living with such uncertainty and disruption for many months had left many people feeling apathetic and demotivated, he said, adding that efforts to tackle a constantly evolving challenge must be “reinvigorated and revived”.
Authorities needed first to “take the pulse of their communities” to devise strategies “driven by the growing body of evidence we have on people’s behaviours”, he said, citing an online platform developed by Hertfordshire county health authority in the UK to measure community sentiment.
The German government had consulted philosophers, historians, theologians, and behavioural and social scientists on fundamental issues such as the balance between public support and moral norms versus coercive state measures, he said.
For strategies to fully succeed, the public needs to own them, Kluge said: “Consultation, participation and an acknowledgement of the hardships people are facing are key. The community should be considered a resource as well as a recipient or beneficiary.”
He cited the examples of a Danish municipality that invited university students to work with authorities to work out how to preserve the student experience while protecting health, and of Norwegian childcare workers developing their own rules for re-opening kindergartens.
With end-of-year festivities approaching, Kluge also said pandemic fatigue would have to be countered “in new, innovative ways”, with creative approaches needed to “restore social pleasure, while protecting communities”.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Europe must go beyond science to survive Covid crisis, says WHO | World news