‘Pandemic fatigue’ a concern amid flurry of abuse incidents
While there is no excuse for racism, psychologists say stress of long Covid fight can cause some to act badly
Last Friday, a man allegedly kicked a woman in the chest and shouted a racial slur at her for not wearing her mask properly while brisk walking.
On Sunday, a video uploaded on Facebook shows two men gesturing and hurling vulgarities at a safe distancing enforcement officer. The incident occured on Saturday.
Both incidents are being investigated by the police, who also arrested a man on Sunday for allegedly causing public nuisance and flouting safe distancing measures on an MRT train.
After more than a year of living with the Covid-19 pandemic, worrying about falling ill, adjusting to safety measures and being restricted from travel, psychologists The New Paper spoke to said fatigue could be a reason for some of the recent ugly incidents.
While there is no excuse for racist behaviour, Ms Diana, a counselling psychologist at Annabelle Psychology who goes by one name, said: "This could be a manifestation of pandemic fatigue.
"When there were some relaxations in the guidelines at the start of the year, it seemed like there would be a reprieve soon. But when the rules get tightened again, people are again told what they can't do.
"This return to a sense of restriction could lead to feelings of fear, frustration, irritation and helplessness in some."
Last Tuesday, the multi-ministry task force handling the pandemic announced a raft of new safety measures, including rules on social gatherings, to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the wider community after a spike in cases.
From last Saturday, people would be allowed to gather in groups of only five, down from eight, while households can receive only five distinct visitors a day.
Said clinical psychologist Carol Balhetchet: "Human beings are natural social creatures - we need to network and interact with others.
"We are faced with this prolonged disruption to social interaction that seems to have no end, coupled with the fact that we have lost control in many areas of our lives - our movements are restricted, we can't travel.
"Frustrated, those who do not take a step back to realise that everyone is going through this together, may lash out and react in such an aggressive manner. They need to learn to reflect that being frustrated cannot be an excuse for irresponsible behaviours."
Last Friday, Madam Hindocha Nita Vishnubhai, 55, an Indian Singaporean tutor, was brisk walking from Choa Chu Kang MRT station at about 8.30am when the alleged assault took place.
She said she had lowered her mask to prevent breathlessness, but the man had insisted she put her mask back above her nose. It is believed the man is being investigated for voluntarily causing hurt and harassment.
In another incident on May 2, in Pasir Ris, a man was caught on camera allegedly shouting at a family of Indian expatriates, accusing them of spreading Covid-19.
National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said while pandemic fatigue may not be the cause of racist behaviour, it could be a catalyst for it.
He said: "Racism, involving racial prejudice and discrimination, does exist in Singapore... We should continue to reinforce inter-ethnic understanding, integration and the Singaporean national identity we have built up over the years, and call out racism as well as rumour-mongering..."
While, there may be no end in sight to the pandemic, Ms Diana said one way to overcome frustration is to understand the current climate and realise what pandemic fatigue can do.
"Awareness is the first key step," she said.
"With all the restrictions we have, we should also remind ourselves of what we can do, to get back a sense of control and reduce frustrations."