During the first wave of infections that hit the continent in January 2020, the youngest (children and adolescents) were quickly identified as the main – often asymptomatic – vectors of the disease. This link between youth and the spread of the virus led to the widespread closure of schools. Although the school year was able to start at the end of the summer in most countries, warning messages aimed at teenagers and young adults have increased steadily in recent months.
Spain figures highly among the countries that have regularly called young people to order. Its #EstoNoEsUnJuego campaign, launched in early September by the Ministry of Health, have made headlines in the Iberian peninsula. The video clip broadcast by the government on social networks (TikTok in particular) leaves no doubt that it is 15-25s who are the main target.
It is not only in Spain that the young have been pegged as the main culprits in the resumption of the pandemic. Invited in early September on to the BBC’s youth-oriented Newsbeat radio programme, the British Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock’s message to young people was, “Don’t kill your gran”.
Scapegoating young people
This inclination to blame the young has also found expression across the Rhine. Berlin’s health minister Dilek Kalayci has targeted young Germans on several occasions, by criminalising parties and other leisure activities often associated with them.
Are young Europeans really to blame for the spread of the virus? Are they taking reckless risks in their day-to-day lives, disregarding the health of their elders? Are they wilfully ignoring the measures taken by authorities, as so many politicians are claiming out loud?
In a podcast broadcast on 27 October by German international radio Deutsche Welle, Marcus Spittler, a researcher at the WZB (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung) and specialist in European youth behaviour, shared the results of a survey carried out by the pollster YouGov. Conducted last September in cooperation with the TUI …