Reports that the fatigue of young people with social distancing and other rules imposed by the coronavirus epidemic are making them shun restrictions are indeed worrying.
Younger people who believe they are either less vulnerable to the disease, or less likely to suffer a mortal affliction, are increasingly breaching safety protocols, reports from around the world suggest.
From Japan to Spain to Canada to the United States, infections among millennials and the so-called Generation Z are driving new waves of cases, these reports suggest. As experts point out, these are the people who are most affected by the economic consequences of the epidemic but least hit by its medical outcomes.
Young people are said to be stepping out for commuting to work, but worryingly, to also visit bars and nightclubs and even sometimes to attend Covid-19 parties to deliberately get infected. A report from Canada on Sunday said that people under 39 formed a clear majority of the new cases in the country.
For the week ending July 22, the incidence rate in Canada was highest among young men and women aged 20-29 (14.4 and 13.8 cases per 100,000 people respectively), followed by those aged 30-39. Cumulatively, they made up 63 per cent of the new cases, and a third of them had to be hospitalised.
While the young may escape the worst effects of the disease, their breach of protocols ensures the propagation of a pandemic that could have fatal consequences for those older than them.
The second wave of infections, after the first had been effectively controlled, in South Korea came from nightclubs in downtown Seoul where the young gathered to break the shackles of restriction.
While overworked police and public health officials around the world have sought to crack down on youth and others breaching safety protocols, it is clearly an uphill battle. But it is not social distancing norms alone that the young seem to enjoy breaching. Even the wearing of masks has become a contentious issue.
This of course was not helped by contradictory messages from political figures and public health authorities, including in India, who first said masks were useless but later strongly advocated their use after epidemiologists said they could help contain the disease. Until June, the World Health Organisation had advised that wearing masks was not of much help.
But in the face of studies, including an authoritative one published in The Lancet, the global body changed its position. Not surprisingly, young people saw in these flip-flops evidence of “political scare tactics” and said they preferred to breathe in fresh air, rather than suffer the imposition.
With more than 16 million infections worldwide, and nearly 650,000 deaths, the virus clearly still rages. But the schism between the young and the old on how the disease should be confronted may well lead to a changed social order.