Young people in France: “Don’t make us scapegoats for COVID-19”

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PARIS (Reuters) – Solène Tissot, a 19-year-old student in Paris, will obey curfew imposed to fight COVID-19, but she has a demand for her country’s leaders: not to blame young people for the second wave of the virus.

“There was this kind of guilt among young people,” she said on Friday, a few hours before the new curfew came into effect in Paris and in major French cities. “I reject that.”

After a lull over the summer, transmission rates of the coronavirus are increasing in many parts of Europe and officials have identified social interactions between young people as a source of the resurgence.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday: “We must especially call on young people to do without some parties now. “

French President Emmanuel Macron also urged young people this week to curb their party.

About 25% of the virus clusters under investigation in France are in educational institutions, the public health agency said.

But students who spoke to Reuters in the French capital on Friday said they and their peers were sticking to social distancing guidelines.

The virus is spreading, they said, due to other factors, including a lack of preparedness on the part of the government and people mixing in the workplace. Blaming the youth parties, they said, was too simplistic.

“We are blamed because it is very easy to scapegoat us,” said Zoe, a 21-year-old student at the Sorbonne University in Paris who declined to give her last name.

She said authorities should better manage social distancing within universities, before pointing the character to youth parties.

Nicolas Litaudon, a 19-year-old student at Sciences-Po University, said instead of blaming young people, he said, French leaders need to look at themselves.

“Has the government done enough to anticipate, plan?” He asked. “You shouldn’t moralize this by trying to blame part of the population,” he said.

Additional reporting by Maxime Lahuppe in PARIS and Maria Sheahan in BERLIN; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Giles Elgood

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