Youths fuel global rise in in­fec­tions

Kuwait Times - - Front Page -

MADRID: Health of­fi­cials fight­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­demic say they have a new prob­lem - care­free youths who are ig­nor­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing rules and let­ting loose around the world, fu­elling a surge in in­fec­tions. As au­thor­i­ties lifted re­stric­tions on gath­er­ings af­ter months of lock­down and sum­mer hol­i­days be­gan in the north­ern hemi­sphere, bars and night­clubs have filled up with teens and young adults. And where venues are closed, young rev­el­ers are sim­ply mov­ing the party else­where - to beaches, parks and streets which have be­come COVID-19 hotspots.

Near the Bri­tish city of Manch­ester thou­sands of peo­ple have gath­ered in out­door rave par­ties or­ga­nized on so­cial me­dia while the sprawl­ing Bois de Vin­cennes park in Paris has reg­u­larly hosted il­le­gal techno mu­sic par­ties fea­tur­ing pa­per lanterns and elec­tric gen­er­a­tors that power turnta­bles. “Par­ty­ing is cru­cial,” said one of the

or­ga­niz­ers of the gath­er­ings in Vin­cennes park, An­toine Calvino.

Al­co­hol flows freely at these events, lead­ing many to drop rules about wear­ing masks and keep­ing your dis­tance in­tended to stop the spread of the virus which has claimed over 700,000 lives world­wide. Po­lice rou­tinely try to break up these out­door gath­er­ings but more keep ap­pear­ing. As a re­sult the num­ber of in­fec­tions among youths has jumped in nu­mer­ous coun­tries, prompt­ing re­peated ap­peals from the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion for young peo­ple to act re­spon­si­bly. “Ask your­self the ques­tion: do I re­ally need to go to that party?” WHO emer­gen­cies chief Michael Ryan said Wednes­day.

While young peo­ple are less likely to suf­fer a se­vere form of the res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease, “they can in­fect their fam­i­lies”, the head of Ger­many’s Robert Koch In­sti­tute for pub­lic health, Lothar Wieler, said at a re­cent press con­fer­ence where he hit out against “reck­less... wild par­ties”. In Canada those un­der the age of 39 now ac­count for the ma­jor­ity of new in­fec­tions and the Health au­thor­ity has warned they are “not in­vin­ci­ble” against the virus.

Sev­eral French coastal cities such as Nice and Biar­ritz have seen a jump in cases in­volv­ing youths who fre­quented bars or par­ties. And in the Swiss city of Geneva, 40-50 per­cent of in­fec­tions de­tected in the last two weeks were among peo­ple who went to “night­clubs and bars, places where peo­ple dance and kiss,” said epi­demi­ol­o­gist Di­dier Pit­tet. Of­fi­cials in Switzer­land and other coun­tries have re­sponded to the rise in in­fec­tions by clos­ing down night­clubs and bars again or re­duc­ing their hours.

The world-fa­mous mega night­clubs on the Span­ish hol­i­day is­land of Ibiza, which draw big name in­ter­na­tional DJs, have re­mained shut this year be­cause re­gional au­thor­i­ties for­bade dance floors from open­ing and kept clubs with a ca­pac­ity of more than 300 closed. “Youths are the most dif­fi­cult group to con­trol. They have a life­style, a de­sire to live, which is very dif­fer­ent from other groups,” the Span­ish health min­istry’s emer­gen­cies co­or­di­na­tor, Fer­nando Si­mon, said last week. “Puni­tive” mea­sures may be needed to get youths to fol­low so­cial dis­tanc­ing rules but they should not be “de­mo­nized”, he added.

Find­ing the right way to reach peo­ple though is a chal­lenge. Mar­i­ano Ur­raco, a so­ci­ol­o­gist at Madrid’s Open Uni­ver­sity UNED, said young peo­ple had un­der­stood the end of lock­down mea­sures to mean that they would en­joy “to­tal un­su­per­vised” free­dom now. The re­gional govern­ment of Madrid launched a hard-hit­ting ad this week to try to get youths to take the virus more se­ri­ously.

It be­gins by show­ing a group of smil­ing young adults drink­ing beers at a bar, then danc­ing at a night­club be­fore show­ing an in­tu­bated pa­tient - and fi­nally a cre­ma­to­rium oven. “There are things that make you hot­ter than a mask,” ap­pears writ­ten at the end. Some ex­perts have sug­gested that young peo­ple in­stead should be left to their own de­vices so they gain re­sis­tance to the virus by be­com­ing in­fected and then re­cov­er­ing.

“This age group could ac­quire much more quickly a col­lec­tive im­mu­nity. But old peo­ple would have to be pro­tected with masks in­side the home,” said Eric Caumes, an in­fec­tious dis­ease spe­cial­ist at the Pi­tieSalpetr­iere hos­pi­tal in Paris. “The ideal would be that ev­ery­one un­der 30 de­vel­ops nat­u­ral im­mu­nity and we pro­tect those over 50 un­til there is a vac­cine or ef­fec­tive treat­ment” for the dis­ease, he added. — AFP


SAINT-DE­NIS, France: A woman hula-hoops among peo­ple en­joy­ing an open air party north of Paris on Aug 1, 2020.

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