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Don’t stigmatise us in COVID fight, urges youth leader

Published:Friday | October 16, 2020 | 12:18 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter

Jamaicans are urged not to create an environment in which youth are stigmatised because they have been identified as the age group with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

Founder of the Balaclavia Youth Club, Jordan Dressikie, expressed his concern following the disclosure by Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton that young people have been identified as superspreaders of the virus.

“Though youths are being labelled now as being the main carrier or transmitter of the virus, we ought to be careful of the stigma that may be attached to youths, and we don’t want it to be in a way that it becomes disrespectful,” said Dressikie during a Ministry of Health and Wellness briefing yesterday.

“We don’t want to shove them aside or say, ‘Don’t come around me because a unnu transport virus’,” he said.

Health officials disclosed that the virus is highest among the 30-39 age group.

“Young people are more active. They push the envelope a little more, and that’s understandable. Even with the restrictions that have been imposed, many have not captured a sense of urgency, or even a sense of fear, as it relates to the COVID-19 environs,” Tufton noted.

He said the narrative that young people are more immune or less likely to die from COVID-19 has contributed to a level of complacency among this group.

“Young persons may not die from having the virus, but they certainly have the capacity to spread the virus to the older population,” he said.

The ministry will be launching the COVID-19 youth leaders response programme today at the Jamaica Conference Centre in order to encourage youth to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols.

Consultant paediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist Dr Abigail Harrison said it is important for young people to understand the role they can play in curtailing the spread of the disease.

“I think if we embrace them as forces of change rather than being barriers to improvement, then that is always the right approach,” she said.

She said that young people are also struggling to cope with the impact of the pandemic.

“What we are seeing clinically is that a lot of our young people are having significant mental-health impact. Daily, I see young people who are unravelling, so some who may have had mild anxiety symptoms before, have significantly peaked symptoms now,” she said.