The World Health Organization on Friday warned youngsters against complacency and said they were “not invincible” to the tide of illness and death caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, AFP reported. COVID-19 has infected 2,75,434 people worldwide and killed 11,399, according to an estimate from John Hopkins University, which is live-tracking cases reported by the World Health Organization and additional sources.

At a virtual press conference in Geneva, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while the older population and those with a history of medical conditions have been worst-affected by the virus, the young people were equally vulnerable and have made up many of the sufferers.

“Today I have a message for young people: you are not invincible. This virus could put you in hospital for weeks – or even kill you,” he said. “Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else.”

Expressing his gratitude towards sections of youth who are exercising all preventive measures of social distancing to stop the virus from spreading, the WHO head said the solidarity between different generations was key to contain the pandemic.

He also admonished smokers across the world. “Don’t smoke. Smoking can increase your risk of developing severe disease if you become infected with COVID-19,” he said.

The World Health Organisation also suggested the phrase “social distancing” be replaced with the term “physical distancing” to better describe the need to maintain physical space between people. Although people may need to go into physical isolation, they did not need to become socially isolated, it said. “We can keep connected in many ways without physically being in the same space.”

The pandemic has brought lives to a staggering halt across the planet, upending daily routines and sharply restricting the movement of huge populations, shutting down schools and businesses, and forcing millions to work from home.

The WHO head, however, said the example of China – the original epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak – gives the rest of the world hope. “Yesterday [Thursday], Wuhan reported no new cases for the first time since the outbreak started,” he said. “Wuhan provides hope for the rest of the world that even the most severe situation can be turned around.”