Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. File
Although older people are among those at highest risk of COVID-19, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has reminded younger generations that they are “not invincible” when it comes to the disease, and the advice should be taken seriously.
Evidence suggests that the spike in COVID-19 cases in some countries is partly due to younger people letting their guard down.
The World Health Organisation reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases on Friday alone, with the total rising by 292,527.
The biggest increases were from the United States, Brazil, India and South Africa. Deaths rose by 6,812. The four countries have dominated global headlines with large outbreaks. The previous WHO record for new cases was 284,196 on July 24. Deaths rose by 9,753 on July 24, the second largest one-day increase ever. Deaths have been averaging 5,200 a day in July, up from an average of 4,600 a day in June.
Nearly 40 countries have reported record single-day increases in coronavirus infections over the last week, around double the number that did so the previous week, according to a Reuters tally showing a pick-up in the pandemic in every region of the world.
In this background, youngsters should take extra care as young people too can be infected; young people can die; and young people can transmit the virus to others.
As Tedros advised, people everywhere must learn to live with the virus, and take steps necessary to protect themselves and others, including those who are most at risk, such as the elderly and people in long-term care.
Earlier, it was found that more young people are dying of COVID-19 in Brazil than other countries, a trend driven partly by demographics — the overall population is younger — but also by poverty and the need to work.
A closer look at such data raises questions about the widely held idea that COVID-19 is mainly dangerous for the elderly.
In early April, 19 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in Brazil were among under-60s. This week, that figure rose to 31 per cent.
The pandemic has completely upended lives across the planet, sharply restricting the movement of huge populations, shutting down schools and businesses, and forcing millions to work from home — while many have lost their livelihoods entirely.
In a positive development, twenty-two international experts in fields such as anthropology, psychology, neuroscience and health promotion will help WHO understand how people make decisions that support their health and well-being, including during the pandemic.
The newly established Technical Advisory Group on Behavioural Insights and Sciences for Health will support WHO’s ongoing work in this area.
Tedros has explained that while having reliable information about health is important, people make decisions based on a variety of factors, influenced by culture, beliefs, economic circumstances, or the status of national health systems. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries are using a range of tools to influence behaviour: information campaigns are one tool, but so are laws, regulations, guidelines and even fines.
That’s why behavioural science is so important – it helps us to understand how people make decisions, so we can support them to make the best decisions for their health.
As WHO officials suggest, the world’s youth should correctly understand the present situation and be leaders and drivers of change during the COVID-19 pandemic.