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(Not) driving home for Christmas

This month saw the return of students to university, and unsurprisingly, there has been a surge in coronavirus cases, causing some halls to go into lockdown. The government that urged students to return is now vilifying young people, accusing them of breaking the law and selfishly spreading the virus. It is undeniable that students at universities and schools are causing a spike in cases, but why are the government shocked by this? It isn’t difficult to conclude that people living together in close proximity, as in university halls, will result in heightened infections. The blame shouldn’t rest upon students, but rather the incompetent Cabinet, who have placed the nation and its young people in a position where the virus will spread rapidly.

The Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, recently stated that “If we all play by the rules, we can ensure that there are not further, more draconian restrictions” and students will be allowed to return home for Christmas. Dowden is constructing the illusion that it is only students who are breaking the law, but what example are parliament setting? From the Dominic Cummings scandal to the recent revelation that parliamentary bars are exempt from the 10pm curfew, the government is incapable of obeying the rules they themselves created. The government seem to be avoiding all responsibility for controlling the virus, instead passing this duty of care onto the people. Johnson’s Cabinet has no control over the spread of Covid, and instead continues doing what they do best: encouraging hysteria, scaremongering, and blame.

The blame shouldn’t rest upon students, but rather the incompetent Cabinet, who have placed the nation and its young people in a position where the virus will spread rapidly

The constant changing of rules makes them increasingly difficult to follow, because what was incentivised one month is condemned the following. In August we were instructed to play our part in restoring the economy with the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, even applauded for demolishing our katsu curries at Wagamama. However, this month, the government have accused young people of socialising too much. Wait, maybe I’m going mad, but were we not told to eat out in restaurants? Just as we were told to return to university? Young people are being blamed and shunned for the behaviours that the government actively encouraged us to follow.

The laws are also difficult to follow when they do not make logical sense. The 10pm curfew is a prime example. This measure seems to imply that Covid lies low throughout the day, but as the clock strikes 10pm, it comes alive like some demonic figure, ready to infect everyone under the cover of darkness. The 10pm curfew is evidence of the government’s hostility towards young people and its efforts to encourage society to blame the young. A group of more than six people socialising will lead to fines and criticism on the news, but it is absolutely fine to go hunting wild animals in a bigger group.

We, the young, are viewed as the spreaders of the disease, the careless generation who care for no one but ourselves

As long as the government have the young to use as a scapegoat, there is less pressure for them to get a better grip over the virus. The responsibility is being placed entirely on students, when the government has had months to prepare for the inevitable rise in cases that would occur when students returned to university. Over the summer, the government should have been ensuring that the test and trace system was accessible to all students and staff at universities, so that outbreaks could be dealt with quickly and effectively. 

The government’s position reaffirms that ageism is prevalent and continues to divide our society. We, the young, are viewed as the spreaders of the disease, the careless generation who care for no one but ourselves, ignoring the fact that it is the youth who continue to give up significant parts of their lives in an effort to curb the spread of the virus: it feels like we lose every which way. The vilification of young people is unjust and profoundly damaging to the cohesion of our society. The coming months will tell if the situation improves, and whether the government will finally start acting instead of blaming, enabling us to return home to our families.

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