Young people ‘sick of being told what not to do’, says WHO’s Mike Ryan

More moral support needed for those in quarantine, MacGill Summer School hears

There is "too much of the nanny state" about the way in which young people are scolded about their behaviour around Covid-19, Dr Mike Ryan has said.

The Irish-born World Health Organisation executive director said young people were “sick of being told what not to do” and governments risked losing them in their messaging.

He suggested there needed to be a more positive message of self-empowerment and that advice to young people should be couched in more positive language.

Hospital Report

“We have not empowered people to be their own risk managers. We need to move towards telling people what to do,” he said.


“No human being can sustain that, particularly young people. We are losing our youth by having that kind of a negative view.”

Online event

Speaking at the MacGill Summer School, which is being held online because of the pandemic, Dr Ryan said people forced into quarantine need to be supported and appreciated more.

“It’s not about sticking somone in a hotel room or the spare room and leaving them there for 14 days and hoping that they haven’t starved to death or gone insane in the meantime. We are talking about supportive quarantine,” he explained.

“It’s a situation where you thank and honour the person who is voluntarily removing themselves from society on behalf of us all. Can we support that person doing that?”

‘Lost opportunity’

“If we could identify a higher proportion of cases and ask close contacts to quarantine with our support, we wouldn’t necessarily be having lockdowns,” he said.

Dr Ryan said there had been a "lost opportunity" across Europe during the summer to prepare for a second wave especially when it came to testing and tracing. "There was always going to be a second or third punch in this. We have all been taken by surprise, but I don't think we should have been."

He concluded though by stating treatments are much better than they were and the number of deaths are falling.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times