Why young people are getting the virus
A leading Australian epidemiologist has explained why young people now account for the nation's highest number of COVID-19 cases as the world's youth have been blamed for fuelling a surge in infections.
People aged between 20 and 29 account for the largest number of coronavirus cases and the highest rate of infection in Australia, according to the Department of Health.
Professor Jodie McVernon from the Doherty Institute this morning told the Today show there's a number of reasons for that.
"A lot of the essential workers out there making sure that we can buy our groceries or in health care settings are younger people," Prof McVernon said.
"So they are required to mix for work."
She also explained that a lot of the transmissions occur in families and households where we are not required to wear a mask.
"We need to be able to touch and be close to those people who we live with, if we're fortunate enough to do that," she said.
"So we are seeing lots of spread in families and that will bring the average age down because we see children and young people infected in that environment as well."
Her comments come as young people around the world have been blamed for flouting social distancing rules and fuelling a surge in infections.
Authorities across Europe, the US and North America are facing the issue of how to ensure social distancing measure are still enforced among young people when coronavirus restrictions are being loosened.
This week, WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan pleaded with young people to act responsibly after the number of infections among young people jumped in a number of countries.
"Ask yourself the question: do I really need to go to that party?" he said.
In NSW, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state was on a "knife edge" this week and asked young people to check their behaviour.
"We're not saying don't socialise or don't go out at all but we are saying please limit your behaviour just in the next few weeks," she said on Thursday.
"If you have the virus and you go out five times a week to different places you could potentially be spreading it to five different locations, and then we have to contract trace everybody."
UK police have also been forced to shut down illegal parties and warn people to maintain their distance on the hottest day of the year on Friday.
Lothar Wieler, of Germany's Robert Koch Institute, said while young people tend to suffer a less severe form the virus "they can infect their families".
Canada, France, Switzerland and Spain have also seen a surge in cases linked to young people.
"Youths are the most difficult group to control. They have a lifestyle, a desire to live, which is very different from other groups," the Spanish health ministry's emergencies co-ordinator, Fernando Simon, said last week.
"Punitive" measures may be needed to get youths to follow social distancing rules but they should not be "demonised", he added.
Australian National University Professor of Infectious Diseases Peter Collignon said the challenge is that while young people are more likely to be infected, they're less likely to get very sick, leading to complacency.
"That differential in death (rates) and also your chance of going to hospital probably also affects your view that 'I'm indestructible and this won't affect me'," he told SBS News.
"Now it is a problem, because even if your risk of death is less than one in 1000, if 100,000 people get infected, that's still 100 deaths that would be otherwise avoidable.
"But I think it's all those factors, the fact that they are the most affected often socially and economically but the least affected medically, means that they may be less likely to comply with the basic things we need to do."
Originally published as Why young people are getting the virus