Saturday 21 March 2020 10:11 am

'You are not invincible': WHO chief sends stern coronavirus warning to young people

The World Health Organisation director-general has warned young people they are “not invincible” to the threat posed by coronavirus.

In a stern warning, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that Covid-19 could still hospitalise or kill young people, despite older and more vulnerable people being most affected.

Speaking at an online news conference from WHO headquarters in Geneva, Tedros said: “Although older people are hardest hit, younger people are not spared.”

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He added: “I have a message for young people: You are not invincible, this virus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you.”

He went on to say that young people are not immune and must avoid socialising and transmitting the virus to those more vulnerable.

He said: “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.”

So far, more than 11,000 patients have died from the Covid-19 respiratory illness worldwide. There have been more than 250,000 patients test positive for coronavirus.

The remarks by the WHO boss come amid reports that young people in several countries are not taking the health warnings seriously enough.

The centre of the pandemic is currently in Europe, Tedros said last week, and in Italy it has killed more people than any other country.

The death toll in Italy rose by a further 627 on Friday, to reach a total of 4,032, making it the deadliest day for one country since the outbreak again.

Reports from Italy suggest hospitals, particularly in the northern region of Lombardy, are struggling to cope with the number of patients in critical condition.

The average age of those to have died in Italy is 78.5 years, although studies reveal people of all ages are susceptible to the virus.

Some reports in Italy have claimed people in their 30s and 40s have had to be hospitalised.

Tedros welcomed news from Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak originated, after it reported no new cases.

China used strict lockdown measures to stop the spread and says the only new cases at present are from those arriving in the country.

Tedros said this provided “hope for the rest of the world that even the most severe situation can be turned around”.

In China the death rate for those aged under 50 was less than one per cent, but it was fatal for nearly 15 per cent of those over 80 years of age.

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WHO now recommends “physical distance” instead of “social distancing”.

“We want people to remain connected,” said Dr Maria Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist said.

“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.