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WHO expert sounds warning on ongoing 'shift' to more younger people being diagnosed with Covid-19

Dr Michael Ryan said today that it’s vital that the virus does not become widespread again among older adults.

Dr Michael Ryan of the World Health Organization
Dr Michael Ryan of the World Health Organization
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

SENIOR WORLD HEALTH Organization (WHO) official Dr Michael Ryan has said the trend of more younger people getting Covid-19 could lead to it being passed onto older people and hospitals refilling again.

“This is not something anybody wants to see,” Dr Ryan told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne earlier today

The WHO’s executive director of its emergencies programme said there’d been a “shift” globally to more younger people being diagnosed with Covid-19, and this was likely due to younger people returning to work or school. 

Last night, public health officials said there’d been a recent trend in Ireland in more people over the age of 75 testing positive for Covid-19, after weeks of cases being diagnosed in people mostly under the age of 45.

NPHET’s Professor Philip Nolan said that this trend represented a “significant concern”.

The number of people in Irish hospitals with Covid-19 has risen slightly in recent weeks, with 50 people confirmed to have Covid-19 in hospitals last night. The number of people in an ICU unit has remained stable at six people. 

Today, Dr Ryan said that while younger people typically experience less severe symptoms from Covid-19 compared to older adults, it is not always guaranteed that will be the case.

He said: “There’s always the danger they can bring that disease home to more vulnerable adults.”

Although the number of cases in the country is rising, driven mainly by a spike in Dublin, Ireland still compares favourably compared to other countries according to Dr Ryan. 

He praised teachers and school staff for their work in helping to re-open schools, and said that pubs can re-open safely if all the appropriate measures are taken. 

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“If people are prudent… opening up any environment is potentially safe as long as it’s managed in a safe way,” he said.

On the paused vaccine trials from Oxford University and AstraZeneca, Dr Ryan said the appropriate action was taken and that, speaking generally on a vaccine, “we cannot push too hard and too fast”. 

Six months on from declaring Covid-19 a pandemic, the WHO has already said it could be until mid-2021 before there is wide immunisation from an effective vaccine. 

About the author:

Sean Murray

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