There are those in the UK who argue that the Government’s latest addition of Covid-19 rules are too restrictive. A new agenda of legislation that is predominately aimed towards the younger folk, perhaps even foreshadowing who the Government plans to blame for the rising curve of new cases. There are also those such as Professor John Edmunds (a Government adviser on SAGE), who have recently warned us that the new measures do, by no means, go far enough and that if we are to continue down the same path, the UK’s epidemic will dramatically spiral. He stated via Zoom, on the BBC, that the infamous R-number will continue to double and in the current state, would be unlikely to fall below 1 before Christmas. Of course, if this is the case, it’s highly probable that the government will introduce further stringent measures to attempt to curb the spread. Yet this sounds all too familiar. Too little, too late. A failure to learn from previous mistakes.
For Boris, things will not be so easy the second time around. He is beginning to lose the support of the population – whether they argue one way or the other. It only takes a thirty-second scroll through Twitter to see people’s growing anger and anxiety at the world. It takes a thirty-second socially-distanced conversation with a friend for them to express their concern at their own fallibility in the wake of a second wave. Perhaps it is useful to break down trains of thought and opinion into three rather (I must admit) broad groups.
There are those who are completely fed up with the Government. People who have lost hope and trust in the Boris administration. Anger quickly follows the feeling of hopelessness and people express their desire to take things into their own hands. Some Tweets lend voice to a seditious train of thought (along the lines of) –
“You can’t trust a word this Government has said – you are a fool if you listen to their new restrictions and follow them, they keep u-turning and have failed to save both lives and the economy”*.
Other people view the restrictions in a critical way. Some post photos of the crowds who are forced out of the pubs in Soho at 10pm and are piled onto the Tube – questioning how the new curfew helps with anything. It is unclear if they are against any new restrictions at all or just question the effectiveness of the new ones –
“The Government’s ridiculous 10pm curfew has people swarming on the tube [attached photo]”*.
Naturally, there are the third group of people who interpret the facts in even further-stretched ways. Those who suggest that because the death rate is relatively low (in comparison to April 2020), we should just go back to the old normal, almost as if the Covid-19 pandemic never existed. Those who are vulnerable or deemed old by I guess, the ‘younger people’, should take it upon themselves to be ‘sensible’ and shield from the rest of society for their own safety –
“Can’t believe I have to listen to Boris and go to bed at 10pm. The country just needs to go back to normal now, yesterday there were only 11 deaths out of 66 million. These are supposed to be the best years of my life and they are being wasted”*.
It is almost definitely the case that people don’t belong to any one group. Each group is not of prescribed membership – and perhaps it is possible to change opinion on a daily basis. However, opportunities of self-reflection and thought should never go un-appreciated.
Attitudes of sedition are historically dangerous and probably even more hopeless than the Government. That is not to say that you shouldn’t or can’t be angry at Boris. Everyone has their own reasons for feeling let-down. We have a Test and Trace system that simply doesn’t work – despite being promised and told otherwise. We have a care sector which was forgotten about and left at the hands of the virus for the best part of the first wave. We have and are about to undergo further mass unemployment – redundancy and the ensuing economic crisis. Students face landlordism from their own Universities and their mental health, wellbeing and livelihood has well and truly been thrown aside. You should be angry. But to reject the advice and legislation put in place by the Government is also to reject the advice of the UK’s leading scientists (and even if you were to follow it all – it would still not be enough for Prof Edmunds). To reject the science is an incredibly bold move and would lead to a new breed of 21st Century anarchism that would be unlikely to push society forward in any positive way.
The critics of the Government’s new restrictions have every right to purposefully criticise the measures Boris has put in place. Common sense suggests that closing the pubs one hour earlier will not prevent the spread of Covid-19 in any meaningful way. It is a complicated dilemma. To keep the pubs open is to allow people to constantly flaunt the rules and congregate in a drunkedly-social setting. Yet to close them completely, is to forsake our already damaged hospitality sector and hang independent pubs in particular out to dry.
The third group of people open the door to even more complex arguments. At what point do we deem someone too old to go to the pub? Should they remain in doors all day, except for daily exercise? Do old people not suffer from mental health issues too? Is one life more valuable than another? The notion that “these are the best years of your life” and to use that as your excuse to ignore any rule, is to place a higher regard on your own life, than somebody else’s. The danger is that certain people have a higher precedence for their own social lives, their own self-indulgence and their warped version of reality that they begin to reject any position which restricts their individual freedom. It’s dangerous because it seeks instant-gratification along with propagating the rejection of Covid as a serious threat to society. Similarly to group one, to do this is to place yourself against the UK’s leading scientists and to enter troubled waters.
However, playing blame games will, as always, divide us even further. Of course it’s difficult to be young right now. My point is that it is difficult to be any age right now. From Grandparents who can’t see their family, to the vulnerable who, to meet anyone, is risking the chance of catching the deadly virus, to freshers who struggle to make friends in their first week of university: today is a tough day. I suspect the road ahead will be even tougher.
But what can you do if a Government administration, that you didn’t vote for, implements legislation and restrictions that you don’t agree with? If you’re angry then you might want to stick two fingers up at Boris and take the future into your own hands. Those emotions are reasonable, but what is misunderstood is the idea that Covid-19 will disappear when it’s finished and bored. It simply won’t. After your party, Covid will still hang around when the crowd is gone.
The increasing likelihood is that young people will be scapegoated into taking a large proportion of the blame for causing the second wave. We read it in the news everyday – “Outbreak in Glasgow University halls, Manchester Halls in Lockdown, Students host big party in Nottingham”. It’s happening and it’s convenient.
Yet we do hold a huge responsibility right now. Not just to the communities around us, but to ourselves and our reputation. If you’re angry, then don’t let them get away with such injustice. But don’t forsake the lives of those around you, in your communities – old and young, fit and vulnerable. It’s time to face up to the truth and recognise that normal life, and all the value that comes with it, is sadly nowhere near to being restored. It’s true – parties, nightclubs, concerts and festivals – all the things young people look forward to – are to be far-fetched dream. We need to accept it and obey it.
We need to let go of narcissistic approaches to selfishness and this idea that ‘I can do what I want’. If we don’t, things will certainly get worse and life will become even harder than before. More people will die, the economy will crash and any prospects of employment will be incredibly difficult to achieve. But that doesn’t mean we can’t press on with the work that needs done. We each have an essential role to play in creating the world we want to live in. Hold the Government to account: don’t even give them a snippet of opportunity to blame us for the rise of cases. Your party isn’t worth it.
Spend time with the people that matter most to you, press on and motivate each other to keep your head’s down and do the work on the ground. Such work will free us from any stereotypes they might try to forge upon us. Enjoy the special moments that you are still permitted with friends and family. It is possible to follow the rules and have still have good times. It’s just that they aren’t the same as the old times – when Covid-19 was a news story and nothing more. Do have your moment to be in group one, two or three: but then face up to the facts and take a stance. If we want to succeed, then we need a collective understanding and responsibility.
When times get truly hard, and they will, words of advice from influential and inspirational people are always of some use. The former First Lady of the United States has famously been a source of laughter, light and hope in a challenging world – Michelle Obama’s Instagram bio reads ‘always hugger-in-chief’. Her advice is proving ever-useful; press on, stand up and holdfast to your responsibility because the future will reward us:
“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” – Michelle Obama.
*all tweets in this article do not belong to individuals, but are interpreted from threads I have read on Twitter.