With his recent swathes of new restrictions on the people of England, Boris Johnson has attempted to curb an increase in Covid-19 cases across. With the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland taking similar approaches, there is a consensus that action is required to stem the increase. Professors Whitty and Vallance were sent out with a dire warning on the 21st; the UK could see the number of COVID-19 cases hit 49,000 a day by mid-October, with 200 deaths a day by mid-November. Whilst this is not a prediction, as emphasized by both scientists, it seems to have been taken as a prediction by many, with hysteria gripping the nation. A massive majority of 77% support the measures set out by the PM, with 45% saying they should have gone further, according to a YouGov poll. However, when we focus on the lives of young people during this pandemic, especially students returning to university, there seems to be a disconnect with reality. This article will explore where new regulations have gone wrong when it comes to young people, and what Johnson, Hancock, and the rest of those clamouring for the curtailing of our freedoms should have done instead to ensure best results.
The new regulations set out by the government in the last few days, such as the Rule of Six, and most recently the 10pm curfew being enforced on bars and restaurants, obviously have the intention of stopping the spread of Covid-19 amongst the population, specifically amongst different households. This article will not directly debate whether these restrictions, along with local lockdowns, would work, assuming they were followed. Instead, it shall be argued that measures such as the Rule of Six will not be followed by the demographics who are suffering the worst rate of infections, namely those between the ages of 17-34. These policies will be broken more as students across the country return to their respective universities. If you tell people to go home at 10pm, they will do so with their friends and congregate in groups far bigger than six, whilst that is less likely to be the case with regular closing times of. Household transmissions will not be reduced as desired, as there will be widespread refusal by students to not socialise. If you tell young adults that they cannot have their closest friends, who are the people they would turn to first in times of panic, round to their house, they will ignore you. Ignoring for a moment the dreadful impact on the mental health of young people these restrictions will have, resentment to rules will lead to them being broken to a far greater extent than if the rules were more lax, and thus more respected. Those that believe you can tell young adults, living near their closest friends, not to socialise, and that they will obey this order, are naïve at best, and stupid at worst.
As opposed to introducing measures that have no hope of being followed, the government should have attempted to get students, and the wider 17-34 demographic, on their side as much as possible, so that rules were respected to a greater extent. For example, rules that allowed up to thirty to socialise outside, and two households of up to twelve to mix at any one time inside, would have seen social interactions kept down, without curtailing socialising to the extent that many feel that rules have to be broken. The growing discontent at government regulations amongst young adults is seen in the YouGov poll referenced earlier in this article; whilst the young overall still claim to support the measures, a notable 32% do not support Boris’ new restrictions. From this we can see that, at the very least, a sizable minority do not support the regulations, and from this we can infer that some will not follow them. We cannot know the exact numbers of course, but we know that it only takes one group of people to cause an outbreak of Covid-19, which we all want to avoid. Outbreaks such as this are less likely if the young are in support of the government’s measures. For now, the majority seem to be. However, if I were Boris Johnson, I would be concerned that I had lost too much of those who need to be on-side the most.
As universities welcome their students back for what will be a surreal year, we must hope that us students manage to strike a balance between Covid-compliance, and self-care. I know what I am concerned will be harming students the most this year, and it isn’t Covid-19. If anyone reading this does struggle mentally with what will be a very tough six months, please reach out to people. We should not be put in a position where we must choose between looking after our mental health, and obeying government regulations.