CHENNAI: In a meeting conducted on Tuesday, an expert medical committee had cited the onset of 'COVID fatigue' as the main reason behind cases rising again.
Experts and corporation staff who have been in the field since the beginning of the pandemic agree. After over a year of rigorously washing hands with soap, wearing masks and avoiding crowded places, city residents may have now dropped their guard, they said.
"Earlier, if we spotted someone not wearing masks and asked them to wear it, they would immediately do so. Recently, I was speaking to a female roadside vendor who was not wearing a mask and she told me 'Sir, you try wearing a mask and sitting here in the sun all day, everyday'," said a corporation sanitary inspector.
Families that religiously disinfected food delivery packages along with washing their hands thoroughly several times a day are now more relaxed in their approach to COVID-19. Public gatherings and celebrations often throw COVID-19 preventive measures to the wind.
"Earlier, even if we just stayed at home, we would make sure we wash our hands thoroughly from time to time. Now, we try to wash hands after coming back home after work but don't do it as much after getting deliveries and touching other surfaces like the gate and staircase railing. It has definitely reduced," said Mohammed Tariq, a city based businessman.
"It was due to COVID-19 preventive measures in the first half of 2020 that the public was able to reap dividends as the situation came under control in the later part of the year. Now, there is a certain amount of ignorance among the people, which leads to risky behaviour like not wearing a mask and not coming forward for testing immediately when they have symptoms," said Dr. P. Ganeshkumar, Assistant Director and Scientist. ICMR, National Institute of Epidemiology.
"Also, there seems to be resistance faced by the frontline workforce from the public on contact tracing. This, along with avoidance of testing and vaccination hesitancy, may have contributed to the recent rise in cases," he added.
Experts also said that as a result of having followed hygienic practices to avoid COVID-19, the public has also had several collateral benefits.
"While these practices like washing hands and maintaining general hygiene were followed to prevent COVID-19, there has also been a lower incidence of tuberculosis, pneumonia, common cold and Madras eye (conjunctivitis) in the last year," said public health expert Dr K Kolandaisamy.
"So, these practices should be kept up not only now but also when there are no cases of COVID-19 at all. They should turn into daily habits," he added.