Young people could be driving Europe's coronavirus spikes, WHO warns

29 July 2020, 16:25

People wearing face masks while walking near a beach in Biarritz, France
People wearing face masks while walking near a beach in Biarritz, France. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Young people enjoying their summer could be driving coronavirus spikes across Europe, the World Health Organisation has warned.

Europe's regional director for the World Health Organisation (WHO) said authorities and governments need to improve how they communicate their messages about Covid-19 to young people.

Speaking on Wednesday, Dr Hans Kluge explained that a change in human behaviour had caused a rise in cases that have led to localised outbreaks, which a number of health authorities had put down to young members of society.

He told Radio 4's Today programme: "An increasing number of countries are experiencing localised outbreaks and a resurge in cases. What we do know, is that it's a consequence of change in human behaviour.

"We're receiving reports from several health authorities of a higher proportion of new infections among young people.

"So for me, the call is loud enough to rethink how to better involve young people."

Read more: Countries with second waves will go on quarantine list 'straight away'

From LBC: Is there really a second wave in Europe? Expert explains the truth

As a father of two daughters, the health expert explained how he understood that young people "do not want to miss the summer," but wanted to remind them of their obligations as citizens and family members.

He added: "They have a responsibility towards themselves, their parents, grandparents and their communities and we do know, now, how to adopt good healthy behaviours so let's take advantage of the knowledge."

In the Netherlands, younger people have reported higher infection rates than old people in recent weeks.

While in France, local outbreaks in Brittany have been blamed on people between the ages of 18 and 25, with officials claiming they do not follow social distancing measures as closely as others.

Head of the regional health authority, Anne-Briac Bili, told broadcaster France3: "Young people spread the virus."

Rising coronavirus infections have been attributed to the behaviour of young people
Rising coronavirus infections have been attributed to the behaviour of young people. Picture: PA

In Spain's capital Madrid, the head of the regional government, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, expressed her concern about "the behaviour of young people" while the city faces a rise in infections.

"They are endangering neighbours but also their academic and working future," she said.

Meanwhile, Professor Roger Kirby, president-elect of the Royal Society of Medicine, told the programme that a second wave of coronavirus is "certainly coming" but it could be different from the first and target young people, as was the case with the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.

He said: “What we saw in 1918 was the virus change, you know, the second wave was different from the first wave and it affected a different group of people, predominantly younger people.”

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