Health leaders issue warning after viral video shows people trying to get infected at 'Covid parties'

11 January 2022, 23:00 | Updated: 7 June 2023, 08:56

Global health leaders have issued a warning urging people not to attend so-called Covid parties
Global health leaders have issued a warning urging people not to attend so-called Covid parties. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Global health leaders have issued a warning urging people not to attend so-called Covid parties in a bid to catch coronavirus.

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It comes after images and videos appeared on social media, purportedly of people purposefully trying to catch Covid at a time convenient to them.

But health experts have branded the craze "dangerous" and "unsafe" due to the risk posed to the elderly and vulnerable as well as the chance of contracting long Covid.

The World Health Organisation (WHO)'s technical lead for Covid-19, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, told a social media briefing: "I don't know if you've seen on social media, or if you've heard people say, 'Well, why bother? Omicron is everywhere and I might as well just get infected now'.

"That's a very dangerous question and it's one worth answering.

"The reason we don't want this virus to circulate is number one, your chance of developing severe disease is real.

If you have underlying conditions, are of an older age, if you've not received a vaccination, you could die.

"And that's what we want to prevent and we can prevent that.

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"But you can also pass the virus to somebody else who is more vulnerable.

"And we are just learning about post-Covid condition - long Covid.

"We don't know the implications of Omicron, which replicates in the upper respiratory tract as opposed to the lower respiratory tract and if that has any implication on your chances of developing longer term effects.

"So that's reason enough not to get infected.

"But there are so many unknowns."

Dr Van Kerkhove added: "I've heard some very scary stories about, you know, parties of people and trying to get infected. Please, that is very unsafe.

"We are working very hard with all of our partners around the world to give you advice to avoid exposure, to reduce your chance of getting infected, to reduce your chance of passing the virus onward.

"This is critical right now. It is not the time to retreat. It is not the time to give up, because we have these tools.

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"We are not talking about shutting down societies. What we're talking about is increasing coverage of vaccine, making sure people have access, as well as simple measures to keep yourself safe, distancing, working from home if you can, access to testing, wearing a well-fitted mask over your nose and mouth, avoiding crowds, improving ventilation.

"So please do what you can to avoid infection."

Dr Van Kerkhove said the Omicron variant is "not a mild disease".

"Please treat this virus as seriously as it needs to be treated," she said.

"Not to scare anybody, but the narrative that it's a common cold is not true, a narrative that it is 'just mild' is not true.

"So we have to really fight against it. It's not the time to give up. We have tools at hand that can keep people safe."