Cases of Covid fatigue reach an all time high
New research shows that people are tuning out of the virus
Unsurprisingly with the arrival of Omicron, Covid is in the headlines once again. But amid the media panic and the catastrophising, many Covid pundits are failing to appreciate a shift in the public mood. According to new research, there is mounting of Covid fatigue in the general public.
In a survey of over 2,500 adults, researchers at Sense about Science found that engagement and interest in Covid information has waned significantly across the board. During the first 6 months of the pandemic, 50% of people reported being “very aware” of the Covid rules and guidance, a figure that has now dropped to 29%. Similarly, the percentage of people checking Covid information “several times a day” fell across all age groups, from 27% in the first 6 months of the pandemic to 11%. Meanwhile the number who reported checking Covid info “less than once a week” increased across all age groups, and now sits at 22%.
Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email
Already registered? Sign in
This change was most pronounced in the 18-29 group, who reported a 30-percentage point decrease in the number who were “very aware” of Covid news, and a 32-percentage point increase in those who checked Covid information “less than once a week”.
This is hardly surprising. After one of the biggest vaccination campaigns in history, and a promise to “cry freedom” afterwards, we are now asking the public to spend another dark winter in the depths of more Covid restrictions. Much of the population — especially the young — quite rightly feel that they have played their part in the national Covid response. After years of interrupted schooling and university, the banning of in-person socialising and relationships for a virus which poses proportionally little risk to them, many young people have had enough. Their concerns now are more likely to be on earning enough cash to pay for worrying increases in the costs of living after the economic upheaval of the last 2 years.
The media and Government should take note of this waning public interest in Covid. While journalists and pundits may be happy to pontificate endlessly on the minutiae surrounding the latest variant or to promote opinion pieces shrilly calling for lockdowns, this obsession over Covid is not representative of a growing number of people.
And as for the Government, attempting to force an apathetic public to comply with more restrictions will only result in conflict. If enough people disengage with the latest Covid rules, they will quickly become unenforceable. This will also have a knock-on effect on guidance, meaning that there is a risk of losing communication with large swathes of the public altogether. It is better, therefore, to focus on proactive measures, such as adequate sick pay, NHS resourcing and reform, and supplying good quality information about vaccines, rather than attempting to coerce a fatigued population any further.
Amy Jones is an anonymous medical doctor with a background in philosophy and bioethics. You can find her on Twitter at @skepticalzebra.
Let’s hope so! I for one intend to disregard any instructions that impinge on my freedom. I’m vaccinated, boosted and will begrudgingly wear a mask if it makes other people comfortable. That’s it! There is no way I am locking down no matter how high cases spike. The more bored and less compliant people are, the better.
I am vaccinated but I won’t get boosted unless forced to. I grudgingly allowed my young teenagers to get the vaccine – even though they don’t need it – and one of them had very serious consequences from it (a known risk no one ever bothered to mention to us when getting it). I only agreed because the deal was we take it and then all the pearl clutchers would then leave us alone. I am done with irrational rules being imposed to make the most neurotic in society feel more comfortable. I am sure schools will be closed and sports cancelled even though doing so is known to have little if any impact on the disease spread. There are too many ‘leaders’ enjoying this authoritarian moment.
“If enough people disengage with the latest Covid rules, they will quickly become unenforceable.”
As I read this, I’m sitting maskless in the public library – yards away from anyone else, but maskless. My principled objection to masks is that the alienation and psychosocial harm associated with not being able to see people’s faces exceeds the marginal health benefits to be got from masking a population 95% of whom have Covid antibodies. In this connection, I think that mandatory masking has only been reimposed because the government wants to be seen to be doing something. Well I’ve had enough of hygiene theatre and I’m not playing along anymore.
You’re absolutely right Drahcir, though an additional factor that justifies non-compliance- There have since been 2 randomized cluster trial studies of the efficacy of masks in stopping the spread that came out from Denmark & Bangladesh: Both of them found that cloth masks had zero efficacy, while the latter found incremental difference in surgical masks (11%). So that not only bolstered your rationale, but also consistent the pre-pandemic empirical evidence!
Hey Josh these sound like interesting studies, could you provide the links?
Here is a good analysis of the Bangladesh results http://www.argmin.net/2021/11/23/mask-rct-revisited/
You should find links to the study in that link too
I’m a fellow mask refusenik. It’s always good to hear from a fellow traveller. I’m fully vaccinated, I just refuse to render myself faceless for the sake of signalling compliance with the Covid morality police. It would be different if the masks were highly effective, but I’m pretty sure their main function is to perpetuate the atmosphere of public hysteria.
This is why I feel it is my duty to never wear a mask. We all know deep down inside that they are useless but wear them so we don’t hurt the feelings of others. Sod that, feelings need to be hurt for the greater good.
Too bloody right. As I say in my comment above, I’m sitting maskless in the library right now.
Doctor asked me yesterday if he could remove his mask…. I snatched mine off and said YES! Load of rubbish. Airborne virus.
There is another interpretation. Government advice has proved to be badly thought out, inconsistent, rapidly varying, and reflecting the PR needs and factional disputes of Boris Johnson more than any reasoned evaluation of the situation. Whether you favour prevention or herd immunity, why should you spend time on government advice? A credible government with a consistent message could probably still pull people with it, if it believed that restrictions were needed. The Boris cannot.
Very true, but I think you would struggle to find someone who has given “meaningful” advice. It is easier to pick the style that suits us best, amidst all the ones at our disposal throughout the world, be it of the “penal colony” or the “no restrictions” variety.
I think the problem in most Western Countries, including the US and UK, was the need for the Governments and Public Health authorities to appear to do something. So in essence they were damned if the did and damned if they didn’t – a no-win situation not helped by a scientifically and medically illiterate press whose sole aim was to sow panic and hysteria. Further, once they embarked on that path (remember 15 days to slow the curve), the Public Health Authorities were essentially stuck on a runaway freight train and then came to believe most of the nonsense they were spewing, despite all evidence to the contrary. A lighter touch would have been smarter with the aim to ensure focussed protection of those most at risk (i.e. nosocomial infections within nursing homes and hospitals), coupled with encouraging people who could work from home most of the time to work from home.
Quite well expressed. The inability of governments to change course after ignoring much evidence is sad. They can’t admit error. Still, some people are demanding “make it stop” which, of course, they can’t do.
Unless this is an England only survey, the BoJo factor may not explain it, because of the often very different tone and often measures, adopted by the Scottish and Welsh governments. I think the research is UK wide.
“and supplying good quality information about vaccines,“
Is the information about the vaccines still missing a ‘few pages’ in the package?
It’s not just the young tuning out covid messaging. In my corner of the US I notice the restaurants are full of elderly people happily unmasked with groups of friends. I assume they’re vaxxed but otherwise, despite the heightened risk given their age, they appear to be getting on with their lives, omicron notwithstanding.
And guess what will happen. As soon as people start to ignore the Government and the MSM, as soon their hydronics and threats start to lose their potency, Covid will simply disappear
So far no one has challenged my refusal to wear a mask and I was stood next to 3 police officers in the queue at MacDonalds
Although I do agree with the Amy’s points in this article, I’d add another major factor here: BoJo & SAGE have underestimated the British people’s abilities to think for themselves and know when not to follow rules(a fact which I delight in). Ever since the 2nd jabs were mass-administered more and more people(though sadly not enough, but hopefully it goes beyond that soon) have now realized that SAGE & the BoJo gov are beating the dead horse with this obsolete, stunningly ineffective approach of mask-up/lockdown till a vax/booster comes along, because the data shows that they’ve lost the argument(despite their projections onto others) and it is the dissenting scientists like Carl Heneghan, Tom Jefferies & Sunetra Gupta(see Sweden & Florida) that are now the ones vindicated. This Omicron madness is their last desperate effort(and Keir’s Labour helm’s) to regain their public image, but despite still a fair amount of compliance, the number of people not complying(like myself) and those at least privately think it’s ridiculous are far greater than this time last year, and the Tory rebellion(along with cross party MPs & the smaller Labour rebellion against Keir, which is icing on the cake) on Tuesday along with the SA docs repeatedly spelling out that Omicron is very mild despite the staggering transmissibility, BoJo & SAGE(and the main bulk of Keir’s Labour) are now in a much weaker position that they were a year go. In fact, I’d go far enough to interpret the way Chris Whitty’s remarks of “Think carefully before you mix with other people” as a slight backtrack from “Don’t mix with others”, atop BoJo’s half-hearted inclination to let people decide for themselves. They’re now recoiling in fear in the wake of Tuesday’s Tory rebellion and the rapidly souring non-partisan public opinion on them!
I strongly believe that BoJo’s greatest ineptitude is not, as claimed by MSM, not acting quick and decisive or that Christmas party(though the latter does have its significance), but rather choosing to listen to the wrong advice again and again ie those from SAGE (esp. Neil Ferguson whom has ZERO training in virology, epidemiology, evolutionary biology OR public health policy, and his career record has been terrible at best) whom has got things very wrong from the beginning. I think if BoJo makes a last ditch effort to really salvage this situation(though I know too well that he lacks the b***s to do so), he’ll need to grow a pair, ignore Keir & the main pro-restriction bulk of Labour(and probs Dom Cummings and Jeremy Farrar too), and kick most of if not the entire SAGE out of the gov, and replace them with scientists who are actually competent eg Sunetra Gupta, Carl Heneghan (both of whom SAGE has bullied out of public discourse) and get us out of this mess. Keir, Sturgeon & Drakeford will scream loudly, BUT that might more likely salvage his popularity within his own party and everyday Brits(maybe except the more affluent factions among the left) in the end!
I lost all faith in Boris as a sensible leader when he gave us ‘It’s one minute to midnight’
I do not think the survey shows fatigue. If it did then the “Not at all aware” and “Not applicable – I did not do this” would show a marked increase. The results are better explained by March being roughly a watershed in reduced anxiety because vaccines had arrived and substantial reduction in restrictions.
Am I the only one who objects to “Amy Jones?” Is the UK such a dangerous place–akin to the USSR at the height of the Cold War–that the media must use anonymous sources? It just seems wrong.
It’s also impossible to evaluate her properly because of this anonymity. I don’t like this trend–if it is a trend–at all. What factors go into allow her to publish like this? I wish UnHerd editors would address this.
Presumably the editors have vouched for her credentials? I perfectly understand her wishing to remain anonymous, the NHS has been acting in a stasi like fashion with their staff and tolerating no dissent, it’s no coincidence that those speaking out publicly have been distinguished professionals of many years standing with accolades in the bank, or retirees who feel compelled to speak out. Anyone else risks their job.
I have no problems with anyone’s desire for anonymity in that environment.
I also perfectly understand why she wishes to remain anonymous. I’m on side–with her desire. I’m less on side with UnHerd permitting this. This woman is a doctor. Presumably she has high social status, many job options, and she feels strongly on the issues. I get it–she may pay a price. But isn’t that part of being an adult. Newspapers have rules on anonymous sources–legitimate ones anyway–and their use is typically frowned upon. Is Amy’s life at risk? Must she join a witness relocation scheme if her identity is revealed. I’m simply against this in principle.
Is the NHS–and the UK–so similar to the USSR that this is really necessary? The possibility of being hounded and discredited is a reason for Amy to request anonymity; it is not a reason for UnHerd to grant it.
James, perhaps you may not be aware of what happened to Sunetra Gupta & Carl Heneghan when they tried to persuade Boris Johnson to switch to focused protection approach as outlined in the Great Barrington Declaration co-authored by Gupta. The 2 of them went to a meeting with SAGE, Dominic Cummings & BoJo, and was ultimately shoved out. The GBD, although now well vindicated, was very unjustly trashed by those helming the international pandemic response back then, and many of its supporters(incl. numerous VERY eminent scientists like Scott Atlas & John Ionnadis) have been relentlessly bullied and their careers ruined. SAGE led that attack (as the lockdown/masking-till-vaxxes approach is their baby) towards Gupta & Heneghan, and Jeremy Farrar(before he left SAGE) colluded with Dom Cummings to smear their reputation(as Cummings did so openly in his testimony past May). The likes of SAGE in the UK & Fauci in the States(all of them whom have powerful connections everywhere e.g. Jeremy Farrar is head of the Wellcome Trust, a VERY powerful organization) have been leading this massive censorship purge to silence every dissenting scientist out there by colluding of Big Tech, MSM and govts worldwide(Lord Sumption has called this out), in the very same way that they’ve shut down the Wuhan lab leak hypothesis. And even more terrifyingly, these giant egos also brainwashed the mainstream left into cheerleading this fundamentally flawed lockdown+masking-till-vaxxes strategy and mass censorship of dissent(though this exiled leftie here is one of the 1st among the rapidly growing exceptions since April 2020), which makes the whole situation even more toxic, and more and more exiled leftists like myself find solace and alliance with right wingers, thus forming a growing non-partisan counterculture like the one we have here at UnHerd.
The biggest threat on our open public discourse & stable ways of life in the UK doesn’t really come from BoJo(though his ineptitude and lack of integrity enabled it to happen), but SAGE. They’re relentless bullies who use their perceived authority as ‘THE scientists’ to bully everyone into letting them have their way again and again even they’ve got everything spectacularly wrong at we the people’s expense. You can literally find them constantly screaming about doom in MSM(incl. this moment even when SA docs are doing the exact opposite), and whenever BoJo resists them they double down. SAGE needs to be disbanded and kicked out ASAP if this whole mess is to end sooner, they are the ones preventing this from ending, and we Brits must hold them with the same contempt and accountability as our American friends do with Fauci!
Look at what they did in the US
Yes I saw it Dennis(I follow Profs. Bhattacharya, Kuldorff, Gupta & Heneghan on LinkedIn), not surprised at all. The same has happened on the UK side, plus the now-moot John Snow Memorandum co-authored by Devi Sridhar(a key health advisor of Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland) & Rochelle Walensky(head of US CDC), both of whom fanatic COVID natural immunity deniers and (until recently)die-hard ZeroCovid advocates AND restriction cheerleaders!
Yes. They are on par with the USSR. Papers please, shut down travel, lockdowns. Exactly on par
There have been more than enough firings of medical workers who speak out to justify this.
She will be hounded and discredited.
Join the discussion
To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.
Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.Subscribe