New coronavirus awareness campaign aimed specifically at young people

A social distancing warning placed at the western entrance to the Oosterpark in Amsterdam. June 25, 2020
A social distancing warning placed at the western entrance to the Oosterpark in Amsterdam. June 25, 2020NL TimesNL Times

Public health institute RIVM is working on a special information campaign to give young people "an extra push" to adhere to the measures in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus. As the number of positive Covid-19 tests is climbing faster and faster, many infections are traced back to young people's parties, Aura Timen of public health institute RIVM, the Outbreak Management Team, and the Center for National Coordination of Infectious Disease Control said to newspaper AD. 

The number of Covid-19 infections in the country has been increasing faster and faster since the start of this month, with nearly a thousand new infections in the past week - double compared to the week before. "And it is really not because more people are getting tested, the relative number of positive test results is also increasing" Timen said. The health institutes expected that infections would increase as lockdown measures relaxed.  But the speed at which this is happening is a bit alarming, Timen said. 

"The weather is nice, it's holiday time, people want to enjoy it after a spring in lockdown. I get that," Timen said. "We hear from [health service] GGD that people become infected at family parties, catch-up exam parties, at barbecues. Also at outdoor activities, yes. People hug each other, hang around each other. That's human, I also need that. But then the virus takes its chance."

And young people in particular are getting infected. Since the beginning of May, people in their twenties have been the largest age category of coronavirus patients, making up 17.2 percent of the total. At the end of March, only 7 percent of patients were in their twenties. Teens accounted for over 6 percent of cases since May, up from 1.2 percent in March. Part of this increase can be explained by the fact that young people are now being tested much more than in March. But the GGDs are tracing many clusters of new infections back to partying young people, Timen said. "They may not become very ill, but they can still infect their parents or grandparents at home. You don't want that."

Hence the information campaign. "We really have to focus on young people, choose an angle that appeals to them, so that they will adjust their behavior. Apparently, our general message is less appealing to them." The RIVM's behavioral unit is currently working on a campaign that will effectively stress the importance of social distancing and other measures to young people. "I think we should be able to launch it within a few weeks, possibly sooner."