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Youth hitting clubs, beaches leading rise in coronavirus cases: WHO

This article is more than 12 months old

Many of the newly infected across the world are young people, who tend to be less vigilant, say observers

GENEVA: 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 three-fold in about five months, the World Health Organisation (WHO) 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 years rose to 15 per cent from 4.5 per cent.

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

"Younger people tend to be less vigilant about masking and social distancing," said Ms Neysa Ernst, a US nurse manager at Johns Hopkins Hospital's biocontainment unit in Baltimore, Maryland.

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

NEW CURBS ON TRAVEL

The surge in new cases 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, which was 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 another surge in cases.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading US 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.

Health experts in several other countries have also 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 told a news briefing 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 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, the authorities shut down a bar where people breached hygiene rules and caused an outbreak. - REUTERS

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