Don’t blame the young for a second wave

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Young people have always been known to have a somewhat turbulent relationship with mainstream media. As students, we’re often portrayed as irresponsible and flaky, and it’s easy to laugh at memorable headlines detailing the horrific ways we tend to stray from tradition. However, with coronavirus cases on the rise, it’s no surprise that the media has once again turned to demonising the young. But are we really to blame, or are we being used as a cheap scapegoat to distract from the government’s failings?

In an interview with the BBC, health secretary Matt Hancock said that a “really important message is that younger people spread the disease, even if they don’t have symptoms.” Despite being factually correct, the framing of this sentence places emphasis on how younger generations spread Covid-19, while ignoring the swathes of other people who’ve been flaunting lockdown restrictions. Maybe I’ve misunderstood Hancock’s in-
tentions here, but it seems to me that he’s blaming one generation, while ignoring the fact that the government’s Covid-19 schemes put young people at risk.

Despite being low risk, young adults have, arguably, been the hardest hit by coronavirus. The country is speeding into its largest unemployment crisis in decades, and thousands of school leavers and university graduates have been left with a dried-up job market. With 24% of the UK workforce at risk of unemployment, many young people have been forced to work in part-time employment to make ends meet.

In this case, we should take a closer look at the nature of part time employment. Supermarket, warehouse and postal workers, for example, were lauded for keeping the country running while putting themselves at risk throughout the pandemic. Here, contact with the public was guaranteed and many cash-strapped students returned home to these jobs due to their relatively low pay and lack of requirement for professional experience.

Young people are stuck in a Catch-22: going to work would “kill your gran” but unemployment isn’t an option

However, since pubs and gyms reopened, many young people have been able to return to work there. The average age of pub and restaurant workers is 29, inside the age group with the highest amount of cases. This was inevitably going to increase contact with the virus further, but it’s no
surprise that cases only recently started to rise in September, in the aftermath of the government’s Eat out to Help Out scheme.

As much as we all enjoyed cheaper meals and socialising, pub and restaurant workers were overrun by customers, and worked incredibly hard to get the economy back on track in a safe way. Unfortunately, the scheme could have acted as an incentive for people to ignore symptoms to get a cheap meal. So, to blame young people for a rise in cases which was, for some, forced upon them because of increased contact from the general public, is ludicrous. If the government is going to prioritise the economy over the health of the public, they should consider their own responsibility before scapegoating young people.

Another comment from Hancock reads, “Don’t kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on”. This is laughable, because any person with half a brain will already be aware that the virus spreads even if you’re not showing symptoms. Young people are stuck in a Catch-22: going to work would “kill your gran” but unemployment isn’t an option. All these mixed messages and blame throwing makes it very confusing for a young person to decide what to do, especially when you take the current mental health crisis into account too. While no one knows the right way to handle coronavirus, alienating a generation is definitely not the way to go.

Hancock and the media shouldn’t be producing a singular narrative, blaming the youngsters for a state of National crisis, and should instead focus on diminishing the generational divide already intensified by Covid-19. In my eyes, battling coronavirus is about following government guidelines, and being sensible; if you’re really looking for a group to blame, it’s people who lack common sense.

Photograph: Toa Heftiba via UnSplash

3 thoughts on “Don’t blame the young for a second wave

  • Another good one…

    https://metro.co.uk/2020/10/07/students-hold-covid-parties-where-only-people-who-test-positive-can-get-in-13383921/

    As someone who works in a student’s union, I’ve defended you guys for the way you’ve been treated by universities and the unfair press you’re getting… but it’s articles like this that the public see. Students are young, and freshers and pre-semester parties are part of university life… and has been for generations before. To tell you not to enjoy yourself in a new city, meeting new friends is borderline hypocritical… but articles and examples like this are not one-offs recently.

    The public doesn’t see the cramped Halls, ten to one kitchen, no social distancing or proper signage, poor communication from greedy universities who’ve reeled you into Halls on a lie of on-Campus study… they see this nonsense. So when “COVID parties” are arranged and when students out in the town say having COVID is like a “hangover” and they should be left alone to enjoy themselves as they’re only giving the virus to each other (while out in a busy city centre)… who do you think will get the blame. Who do you think are goiong to be demonised for the recent shutdown of pubs in Scotland.

    Reply
  • Further restrictions =government failure.

    Reply

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