Authorities in countries around the world in lockdown over the coronavirus outbreak are warning young people to obey the rules on social distancing amid widespread reports of partying and gatherings.
Scientists and health officials say that revellers meeting for “lockdown parties” and “end of world” drinking sessions were acting irresponsibly by contributing to the spread of the virus.
Statistics show that young people are as likely as older people to get infected and spread the virus. But as younger people are far less likely to be badly affected and in 50% of cases will not even have symptoms, according to leading virologists, many young people say they have no reason to be scared of it.
In Berlin, renowned for its non-stop partying, and a magnet for European clubbers, police have repeatedly broken up gatherings, and last weekend forced more than 60 clubs and bars to close after they defied a decree by local authorities ordering the closure of all entertainment venues.
The police also report that “corona speakeasies” have been springing up in the city, where owners of closed bars have taped up the windows and locked the doors, only allowing in guests who have registered, or who deliver a specific knock on the door.
In a tweet, Berlin police warned: “If you run a bar, tape up the windows and allow people to enter only by knocking or arranging to come in advance, then you should know that we’re not living in a situation like Chicago of the 1920s, instead it will trigger a police operation.”
Similar breaches have occurred across Germany, as schools and universities have been closed. The widespread belief is that it is only a matter of time before authorities issue all-out curfews, like in France.
In Dunedin, New Zealand, hundreds of university students have ignored government bans on mass gatherings and are pushing ahead with plans for the annual Hyde street party on 4 April, which is traditionally attended by thousands of first-year university students and infamous for fights, mass drunkenness and public disorder.
Even though the event has officially been cancelled, on Facebook hundreds have indicated that they plan to flout the ban and party en masse regardless.
Princeton University in New Jersey reported an explosion in parties, according to local press and students, after it announced last week its teaching would be moved online and students were sent home. Some talked of having “last blast” or “dancing under the volcano” parties.
Israeli citizens have been criticised by their president, Reuven Rivlin, for treating the restrictions as holidays and urged them to follow the instructions of the ministry of health. “We must not turn these days into leisure days,” he said in an address to the nation. “I hear that our beaches and hiking trails are bursting. The danger is real. Let me ask you again to follow the instructions regarding distancing and to keep away from gatherings. This is a real danger.”
In Hong Kong those not seen to be taking the restrictions seriously, particularly not wearing masks, which has been the community response, have been shamed. The Apple Daily newspaper published a front page targeting “westerners who don’t wear masks, walking around freely”. It depicted a group of people outside a bar drinking and smoking, which prompted much nationwide debate and sparked an online campaign called #wearafuckingmask.
In Bangkok, pubs, bars and other entertainment venues were told to close as the government attempts to stop the spread of the virus. Until recently, some were continuing to party, despite the outbreak, prompting officials to warn against irresponsible behaviour.
Last week, the Thai ministry of health confirmed that a cluster of patients had tested positive for the virus after sharing drinks and cigarettes together in an enclosed room for a long time.
Foreign tourists have also been criticised for failing to wear masks. Last month, Thailand’s public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul suggested that those who do not do so should be kicked out of the country because they were putting others at risk.
In Rio de Janiero’s bohemian Santa Teresa neighbourhood, parties are also said to be still happening.
And in Argentina, thousands of people have gone on leave and have been rushing to the beaches to enjoy the last days of Argentina’s southern hemisphere summer.