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WHO message to youth on coronavirus: 'You are not invincible'

By Stephanie Nebehay

Coronavirus can sicken or kill young people as well and they must also avoid mingling and spreading it to older and more vulnerable people, the World Health Organization says.

With more than 210,000 cases reported worldwide and a death toll of 9,000, each day brings a "new and tragic milestone", WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

"Although older people are hardest hit, younger people are not spared. Data from many countries clearly show that people under 50 make up a significant proportion of patients requiring hospitalization," Tedros told a virtual press conference.

"Today I have a message for young people: You are not invincible, this virus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you. Even if you don't get sick the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else," he said.

Amid global shortages of protective gear for health workers and diagnostic tests, Chinese producers have agreed to supply the WHO, he said. Arrangements are being finalised and shipments coordinated to restock its Dubai warehouse to ship supplies where they are needed most, he added.

"Air bridges" will be needed to expedite supplies to countries for vital health workers, as many regular flights have been cancelled, according to Dr Mike Ryan, the WHO's top emergency expert.

The WHO has distributed 1.5 million lab tests worldwide and it may need potentially 80 times that for the pandemic, he said.

Ryan, asked about Iran - which is celebrating the Persian New Year as it battles the coronavirus which has killed more than 1,400 people and infected nearly 20,000 there - said that such celebrations need to be modified.

Mass gatherings "cannot only amplify the disease but they can disseminate the disease very far away from the centre", he said. "So they can be very, very, very, very dangerous in terms of epidemic management."

The WHO has shifted to recommending "physical distance" instead of social distancing to help prevent transmission of the virus, officials said.

"We are changing to say 'physical distance' and that's on purpose because we want people to remain connected," said Dr Maria Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist.

"So find ways to do that, find ways through the Internet and through different social media to remain connected because your mental health going through this (pandemic) is just as important as your physical health," she said.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I remember when I was invincible...then I started to count my birthdays.

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Youth have a statistically low chance of dying from the virus-certainly not a reason to be fearful or give up ordinary daily life...

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Youngest victim in the UK is 18 years old.

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Youth have a statistically low chance of dying from the virus-certainly not a reason to be fearful or give up ordinary daily life...

They also have a statistically low chance of dying from a broken leg, HIV, measles, or malaria, but those are all things they should really want to avoid, and should take sensible precautions to do so.

With injury or disease, it's not all about whether it kills you or doesn't. There are a lot of bad consequences of falling sick, one of them - some young people will be painfully aware of this, and it will also appeal to the more self-centred among them - loss of wages.

But falling sick in itself is nasty, and often a bit more than that. You really shouldn't be indifferent about the possibility of ending up in hospital for an extended stay (apart from anything, ruinously expensive in some countries). Or about the possibility of contracting pneumonia, which is extremely unpleasant even when it's not life-threatening. Or about the possibility of passing around infection which runs out of control, pushing hospitals and medical staff to the brink - and then over.

This is why ordinary daily life is being temporarily set aside in many parts of the world now. Frankly, it's not especially important whether young people are fearful or not, or are being inconvenienced. It's important that they understand what's happening, and understand that their help in slowing this down is necessary. That does mean giving up ordinary daily life for a while.

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