Forty four per cent of the population in Singapore are tired of following the strict health measures, including wearing masks, to contain the spread of the coronavirus as they feel the pandemic has lasted longer than they anticipated, according to a survey by the Sunday Times.
The online survey, which is representative of the Singapore resident population aged 16 and above, and was carried out with a sample size of 1,000 by an online market research firm, showed that 44 per cent of people here are tired of following the necessary health measures. Of those surveyed, 27 per cent said that having to wear a mask was the most frustrating virus counter measure.
One in five saw checking in with SafeEntry, an app-based check-in and check-out for visiting common public places, as a nuisance, while 14 per cent were unhappy about having to limit the size of physical gatherings with friends and family. People were also unhappy about not being able to travel overseas, events being cancelled or postponed and entry to public facilities being limited. stadiums, swimming complexes and gyms, for instance, have a restricted operating capacity of 10 sq m per person, according to the survey.
The survey further revealed that nearly four in 10 believed the rules were "a bit strict, but reasonable" while 5 per cent thought they were "overly restrictive". Commenting on the survey outcome, experts feel that it is natural for coronavirus fatigue to set in.
Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health said: "Wearing a mask every time we step out of the house is really not a normal behaviour for us." "But the experts also agree that the authorities need to manage this to ensure Singapore's collective guard against the virus is not let down," he said.
Despite the fatigue, most respondents said they largely understood the rationale behind the rules and followed them, according to the survey. When it came to masks, 76 per cent said they wore them properly all the time, while 20 per cent said they did so most of the time, even when no authorities were present.
Compliance was lower for social distancing, with 43 per cent saying they always kept their distance from others even when no authorities were around. Another 43 per cent mostly complied, with occasional lapses, while 10 per cent did so only from time to time.
The survey also found that younger people had been socialising with more groups outside their household each week since phase two of Singapore's reopening started on June 19, compared with those 35 and older. Through strict safe distancing measures, Singapore recently managed to get the number of daily new infections down to below 90, with community cases remaining in the single digits.
While these measures have to remain in place for the foreseeable future, experts said virus fatigue is a serious matter that the authorities should address. "Society, as a whole, needs to acknowledge and address the presence of fatigue," the Sunday Times' survey quoted Prof Teo, who believes that it was a key for the authorities to continue communicating clearly with the public on the need and rationale for the measures.
He said Singapore's mandatory mask-wearing policy may seem "overbearing", but also highlighted why it was useful. Countries that only recommend their use tend to see a fall in the wearing of masks over time.
There is a fine of 300 Singapore dollars for a first offence of not wearing a mask in Singapore. Tan Ern Ser, an associate professor from the department of sociology at NUS' Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, felt that some precautionary measures like patrons having to take their temperatures several times while in the same mall can be made less inconvenient.
As of Saturday, Singapore had 55,661 COVID-19 cases in a population of 5.64 million. The country has reported 27 deaths. But the vast majority of the cases are among 300,000 foreign workers living in dormitories and working in labour-intensive industries.