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Why Won’t Greece’s Young Obey COVID-19 Health Measures?

ATHENS – A resurging second wave of COVID-19 across Greece has largely been brought on by young people who won't wear masks, stay safe social distances from each other and engage in wild parties, even in public squares.

But why?

With their lives on the line and data showing the young are a growing sector of the infected, the New Democracy government has been having trouble getting them to obey health protocols despite the evidence of the risk.

Health experts, said Kathimerini, are anxious about that disregard although Prime Minister Kyriakis Mitsotakis, wanting to avoid a second lockdown even as cases creep toward the 1,000 a day mark, keeps appealing to the young especially to show responsibility, although some said the pandemic can't hit them.

Nightclubs and taverns are required to close at midnight, with no explanation why people clogged together in that alcohol-fueled atmosphere can't be infected before then.

When the clubs close, many young had taken to buying beer and alcohol at street kiosks and moving their parties into public squares with police told not to break them up but encourage people to leave. Even shutting the kiosks at midnight hasn't stopped some of the partying.

Some 10 percent of cases recently have hit people up to 17 years old while 50 percent were between 18-39 showing the growing danger for the young. That brought down the average age of cases to 37, and 33 in Attica including Athens and only 28 in Thessaloniki, which has shown special defiance.

Data from the National Organization for Public Health (EODY) showed of 3,495 cases diagnosed in the Oct. 17-22 period, 321 (9.2%) concerned people under the age of 17, some 1,636 (46. 8%) were aged 18-39, while 1,214 (34.7%) were 40-64 and 324 or 9.2% were aged 65 years old or above, the paper said.

During the first wave of the epidemic, more than six in 10 cases (62%) involved people over the age of 40 but that changed in the summer with people, especially the young, holidaying, and wild parties on islands and in private homes and villas, before a recent overnight curfew in hard-hit areas.

“To some extent this is expected, as young people are at the forefront of every activity,” Athanasios Exadaktylos, President of the Panhellenic Medical Association and a member of the Health Ministry’s committee of experts said.

“On the other hand, their youth makes them careless. We should not target them, but ask them to help, being the most exposed, in the effort by taking additional protection measures and changing their way of life for a while,” he told the newspaper.

That means the young now are not only susceptible to catching the Coronavirus but super spreading it among themselves in groups and then on to others, the government responding with stricter measures that haven't fully worked, including mandatory mask wearing and the curfew from midnight until 5 a.m., which is a time when many young people gather in squares and houses after bars now close at midnight.

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