First, it was said people over the age of 60 were more susceptible to coronavirus. Today, even though this still remains a factor, people under 40 have been described as ‘superspreaders’ of the disease and increasingly dying of the virus in a worrying trend that is baffling health experts.
Two days ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, told the BBC that ‘young people could be driving the spikes in coronavirus infections across Europe’. Local experts from the Ministry of Health also reached similar conclusions regarding people aged 20-39.
As the pandemic continues to devastate the health and wealth of nations, it is unfortunate that young people have become the weak link in the fight against Covid-19.
Young people are treading a very dangerous path, living their lives with a cavalier disregard for the virus, its potential to destroy their lives and the danger they pose to their loved ones, older family members especially.
When they are not flocking city bars without masks and disregarding social distancing, they are packing up in cars like sardines and driving ‘out of town’ to coffee farms and picnic areas to get drunk.
They are attending house parties, chugging alcohol by the bottle and mingling with people whom they do not know where they’ve been.
They are sharing lame jokes on Twitter and TikTok asking us if we “know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who has coronavirus”, in a rare, ill-advised minimisation of the pandemic.
The worst bit is that they are going back home to their parents and older relatives who have pre-existing conditions, putting them and the nation in grave danger.
Today’s piece is dedicated to every Kenyan below the age of 40. I know things are tough. It is a period of uncertainty for all of you.
School is out until next year. Those employed have to make do with a fraction of your salary. For the freelancers, contracts have cancelled and jobs are far and few between.
It gets harder for those who were previously unemployed or those rendered jobless by the pandemic.
None of you has ever lived through a pandemic so the need to let off some steam is understandable.
That said, you cannot afford to drop the ball. If ever there was a time this country needed you to stay put and take care of yourselves, your families and this nation—now is the time. We need you strong, healthy and alive because what good is a country without its vibrant young people?
I don’t need to remind you that our public health system does not have the capacity to keep us all alive, should our numbers soar in the hundreds of thousands.
Keep in mind that while you may be asymptomatic and survive the virus, your family members and friends that you exposed to this virus may not.
Be smart. Listen to the experts. Stay at home, wear a mask, avoid alcohol and keep a positive attitude. I’ll leave you with some unsolicited motivational platitude: this too shall pass.
Ms. Chege is the Director, Innovation Centre, Aga Khan University.