A senior official at the World Health Organization (WHO), which is part of the United Nations group, said that while over 95 percent of those who have died of COVID-19 in Europe were over 60, young people are still at risk.
“The very notion that COVID-19 only affects older people is factually wrong,” said Dr. Hans Kluge, at an online news conference in Copenhagen Thursday. “Young people are not invincible.”
Kluge, who heads the WHO’s Europe office, said some young people who contracted the illness ended up dying.
“Severe cases of the disease have been seen in people in their teens or 20s, with many requiring intensive care and some unfortunately passing away,” Kluge said.
He said more than half of those who died due to COVID-19 were over 80 and that more than 80 percent of all those who died had at least one chronic underlying condition.
The WHO said between 10 percent and 15 percent of people under 50 with COVID-19 experienced either moderate or severe symptoms.
Kluge’s comments come after alarming statements from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who at a virtual media briefing on April 1 expressed deep concern about “near-exponential growth” in new cases.
“The number of deaths has more than doubled in the past week,” Ghebreyesus said, adding: “In the next few days we will reach 1 million confirmed cases, and 50 thousand deaths.”
Fatality statistics maintained as a running tally by Johns Hopkins show that as of Thursday, over 51,300 people had died of the disease.
Greatest Test Since World War II
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters on April 1 that COVID-19 was the biggest test the world has faced since World War II.
“COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” said Guterres as he launched a report (pdf) this week to address responses to the crisis.
The U.N. was founded 75 years ago, after World War II.
In a note accompanying the report, Guterres called for a “large-scale, coordinated, and comprehensive” immediate health response to curb the spread of the virus, including stepping up testing, quarantine, and treatment.
“We are still very far from where we need to be to effectively fight the COVID-19 worldwide and to be able to tackle the negative impacts,” Guterres told reporters at a virtual news conference.
“Societies are in turmoil and economies are in a nose-dive,” he wrote, adding, “the world is facing an unprecedented test.”
“This is the moment of truth,” he added, and called for a multilateral response amounting to at least 10 percent of global gross domestic product.
Over 998,000 people worldwide have been infected with the virus, according to Johns Hopkins data.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.