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(Reuters) - The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warned on Thursday that the novel coronavirus is driving discrimination towards vulnerable communities in Asia, including migrants and foreigners.

The humanitarian agency surveyed 5,000 people in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Pakistan and found about half blamed a specific group for spreading the coronavirus, with many mentioning Chinese people, immigrants and foreigners.

"It is particularly concerning that both national migrant and foreign workers are blamed for the spread of COVID-19 as they are quite vulnerable already," Dr Viviane Fluck, one of the lead researchers and the agency's Asia Pacific community engagement and accountability coordinator, told Reuters.

She said there should be more focus on combating "rumors that are linked to underlying power dynamics and structural issues of inequality".

More than half of the Indonesians surveyed blamed "foreigners and rule-breakers" while in Myanmar, the groups most often thought to be responsible were people from China and other foreigners.

In Malaysia, two-thirds blamed a "specific group", most frequently mentioning migrants, foreign tourists and "illegal foreigners", the researchers said.

Malaysian authorities arrested hundreds of undocumented migrants and refugees in May in a crackdown the United Nations said could push vulnerable groups into hiding and prevent them from seeking treatment.

Police said at the time the operation was aimed at preventing people from traveling amid movement curbs.

In Pakistan, most people surveyed blamed inadequate government controls on the Iranian border, followed by nationals including pilgrims coming back from Iran and then people from China.

In all four countries, higher education had a small impact on whether respondents blamed a specific group, with university graduates slightly less likely to hold certain people responsible, the researchers said.

(Reporting by Poppy McPherson; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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COVID-19 Cases Among Young Adults in U.S. Rise 55% in August: CDC

By Vishwadha Chander

(Reuters) - Coronavirus cases among young adults rose steadily across the United States in recent weeks as universities reopened, suggesting the need for this group to take more measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a U.S. health agency said.

Universities that want to reopen for in-person learning need to implement mitigation steps such as mask wearing and social distancing to curb the spread of the virus among young adults, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in the report

Between Aug. 2 and Sept. 5, weekly cases of COVID-19 among people aged 18 to 22 rose 55.1%. The Northeast region recorded a 144% increase in COVID-19 cases, while Midwest cases rose 123.4%, the report said.

The uptick in cases was not solely attributable to increased testing and could be linked to some universities resuming in-person attendance, the CDC researchers said. They also said transmission could also be among young adults not attending college.

Previous reports identify young adults as being less likely to adhere to prevention measures, the report said.

In a separate study published in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on Tuesday, researchers reported a rapid rise of COVID-19 cases two weeks after a North Carolina university opened its campus to students.

The study found that between Aug. 3 and Aug. 25, the university reported 670 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, with preliminary investigations finding that student gatherings and congregate living settings likely contributed to the spread.

On Aug. 19, classes moved online and the school began to reduce density of on-campus housing. No COVID-19 patient from the university was hospitalized or had died, the researchers said.

The authors of both studies suggest the need for enhanced measures to reduce transmission among young adults and at institutes of higher education.

(Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Caroline Humer and Amy Caren Daniel)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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