Youth lead surge in COVID cases, WHO says

‘LESS VIG­I­LANT’

National Post (National Edition) - - WORLD - ANKUR BANERJEE AND STEPHANIE NEBEHAY

Young peo­ple who are hit­ting night­clubs and beaches are leading a rise in fresh coro­n­avirus cases across the world, with the pro­por­tion of those aged 15 to 24 who are in­fected ris­ing three­fold in about five months, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion said.

An anal­y­sis by the WHO of six mil­lion in­fec­tions be­tween Feb. 24 and July 12 found that the share of peo­ple aged 15 to 24 rose to 15 per cent from 4.5 per cent.

Apart from the United States which leads a global tally with 4.8 mil­lion to­tal cases, Euro­pean coun­tries in­clud­ing Spain, Ger­many and France, and Asian coun­tries such as Ja­pan, have said that many of the newly in­fected are young peo­ple.

“Younger peo­ple tend to be less vig­i­lant about masking and so­cial-dis­tanc­ing,” Neysa Ernst, nurse man­ager at Johns Hop­kins Hos­pi­tal’s bio­con­tain­ment unit in Bal­ti­more, Mary­land told Reuters in an email.

“Travel in­creases your chances of get­ting and spread­ing COVID-19,” she said, adding young peo­ple are more likely to go to work in the com­mu­nity, to a beach or the pub, or to buy gro­ceries.

The surge in new cases, a so-called second wave of in­fec­tions, has prompted some coun­tries to im­pose new curbs on travel even as com­pa­nies race to find a vac­cine for the fast-spread­ing virus that has claimed more than 680,000 lives and up­ended economies.

Even coun­tries such as Viet­nam, widely praised for its mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts since the coro­n­avirus ap­peared in late Jan­uary, are bat­tling new clus­ters of in­fec­tion.

Among those aged five to 14 years, about 4.6 per cent were in­fected, up from 0.8 per cent, be­tween Feb. 24 and July 12, the WHO said, at a time when test­ing has risen and pub­lic health ex­perts are con­cerned that re­open­ing of schools may lead to a surge in cases.

An­thony Fauci, the leading U.S. ex­pert on in­fec­tious diseases, urged young peo­ple last month to con­tinue to so­cially dis­tance, wear masks and avoid crowds, and cau­tioned that asymp­to­matic peo­ple could spread the virus, too.

In­deed, health ex­perts in sev­eral coun­tries have urged sim­i­lar mea­sures as they re­port that in­fected youth show few symp­toms.

“We’ve said this be­fore and we’ll say it again: young peo­ple are not in­vin­ci­ble,” WHO Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Te­dros Ad­hanom Ghe­breye­sus said in Geneva last week.

“Young peo­ple can be in­fected; young peo­ple can die; and young peo­ple can trans­mit the virus to oth­ers.”

Last month, Tokyo of­fi­cials said they would con­duct coro­n­avirus test­ing in the city’s nightlife dis­tricts, and in­structed night­clubs to pro­vide cus­tomers with enough space with good ven­ti­la­tion and to ask them to avoid speak­ing loudly.

In France last month, au­thor­i­ties closed a bar where peo­ple breached hy­giene rules and caused an out­break.

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