This weekend may have come as a wake-up call for the government who, perhaps foolishly, thought that calls for national unity would pull enough at the heartstrings of young people to keep them indoors.
With elderly people by far the worst affected by this deadly virus, some millennials seem to not be taking the restrictions seriously. Following reports that the sunny weather has caused hordes of people to descend on the capital’s parks, I urge young people to do their bit and just stay home.
Boris will be hoping that the new, more stringent measures, will help to tackle this issue. Going into lockdown or having restrictions placed on our freedoms, is not something my generation have ever had to contend with or even contemplate. That moment however is now and if young people don’t rise to the occasion, many unnecessary deaths will occur.
As a young guy, I understand how what is happening feels completely surreal. I contracted the coronavirus and having thought it wouldn’t be something I had to be concerned about, instantly found myself worrying about the risk to my friends and family as well as the population at large. During the first 4 days of isolation my symptoms were simply a persistent cough and headaches but that quickly turned to what felt like a very bad case of the flu. The worst of it only lasted 3 days, but meant that I was completely bed ridden. The difficulty in breathing was compounded by my asthma. Make no mistake, this virus has the potential to be very uncomfortable and dangerous for many people, even if most will not be hospitalised. I can only imagine the pain and discomfort those who need a ventilator to save their life must be feeling. This is why seeing people, and it has to be said, mostly young people not taking the advice of medical experts is particularly infuriating for me.
This crisis is a matter of life and death, and that fact is a very sobering experience for those of us who have spent the last few years bickering over Brexit and party politics. Londoners have to start listening to medical advice and with the capital being the worst affected part of the country, limiting the spread in London has a lot to do with limiting the spread in the UK.
What’s being asked of us is a long way from trenches and gunfire, and a transition to Netflix and video calls is the very least we can do. Work can and will continue but the sooner people take ownership of their own responsibility for spreading the virus the sooner London, and the rest of the country can return to normal.
Despite the images of people blatantly ignoring the scientific advice, many young people have already risen to the challenge and are making sure they protect those at most risk. I took a lot of joy from reading a story on Twitter of neighbours putting behind their differences after a long period of resentment. Years ago, two young lads hit an elderly woman’s car with their football and there had been tension between them ever since. The coronavirus has however, instigated a new friendship, with the young lads helping the woman do her shopping. Similar acts of kindness are happening all over the country and if you’re a young person reading this, make sure you’re part of this group.
The way we do business has changed a lot since our grandparents’ time and the increased use of technology leaves us far better prepared to deal with an outbreak like this than ever before. Working from home or being a freelancer is much more common than it once was and if the government wants people to adhere to these restrictions they must make sure the self-employed and renters are protected. If you work for Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct, you would have woken up yesterday to the news that despite the lockdown you are still fully expected to work. If businesses don’t allow young people on zero-hours contracts to abide by the government’s rules then the whole of society will suffer. It is vital that the support packages outlined by Rishi Sunak and the Treasury incentivise businesses and landlords to do the right thing and not just pass the burden on to those least able to cope. With Covid-19 carving out a new normal for work and social life for the coming months, London must adapt too, if it is to go on being the financial capital. If there is any silver lining in this dreadful situation it’s that we will adapt, work will become more independent and efficient and the coronavirus will uncover the fact that some meetings can just be emails.
If you’ve just finished university or indeed mix in circles that have, you might be forgiven for thinking the British government is run by dictators, Brexit was going to end human civilisation as we know it or that we’re living in the 1940’s. The reality is that young people are being conscripted to the front lines, but not in trenches… instead in cosy living rooms across the country. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MP’s on Monday that “home is now the front line” and he’s right; each of us has a duty to follow the advice of the experts. What the government is asking young people to do is put ‘we’ before ‘me’, something many have not had to do before. Right now we are seeing supermarket shelves stripped bare and people still meeting friends in the park. This has exposed the current default for people in times of crisis. It’s not all for one and one for all, it’s every man for himself. That is why the next few weeks will be a turning point for my generation, with time to reflect and rethink what we consider important and a shared struggle that helps to slow the polarisation of politics.
The outbreak has also shifted who the spotlight is on and who is most valued. The cringy celebrity coronavirus videos have made me laugh, but they highlight a problem with what my generation holds in esteem. The new phenomenon tells a different story to the one so often told: in a matter of weeks society has gone from idolising instagram models and football players to recognising the immense importance of our health service. The coronavirus has exposed a great hidden truth: the people who are really indispensable to the country are the bin men, the shopkeepers, the postmen, the delivery drivers, not the Sam Smith’s of the world struggling to cope in their Chelsea mansions. The time for self-pity is over, and our generation must rise to the challenge. Life is going to get a lot harder for everyone, but once we strip away the burning need for our generation to cry out how hard we’ve got it, I think we’ll find deep down we’re made of stronger stuff.
The scenes coming out of Italy are a stark reminder of the part we all have to play in this fight and as more evidence of younger people being hospitalised comes out, if you’re not going to do it for the collective good, do it for yourself. It’s difficult for a generation of people so used to having complete freedom to make these basic sacrifices. However, change is happening whether we like it or not and we must come to terms with the fact that the heroes in this fight, other than our incredible health service, will not be out protesting but will be inside watching the telly.
I’m in no way suggesting that isolation will be easy, in fact I think most young people are unaware of just how difficult it will be, but having said that, it gives us a shared struggle, a common enemy and could really go some ways to building a sense of community in these fractured times. In the coming months we have the opportunity to flesh out our ‘wartime spirit’ equivalent, and we owe it to our most vulnerable and those who fought for our freedoms, to temporarily sacrifice those luxuries, in order to pay them back.
Boris and his team are, I think, very aware of the mental health impacts this lockdown will have on the population and this goes some way to explaining why parks remain open and some measures didn’t come earlier. Whether we like it or not, this outbreak is a leveller. Whether you’re rich or poor, old or young, ‘woke’ or not, we’re all in this together. The strain on our mental health will certainly be felt but it does also force us to appreciate the things that keep us smiling in the first place. Personally, isolation has highlighted for me the importance of both the outdoors and communicating with friends on a daily basis and in sacrificing the things that bring me joy I have a newfound respect for what I had begun to take for granted.
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