The Coronavirus scapegoats – young people to blame or Government failure?

Over the course of the last six months, Boris Johnson has attempted to divert any blame for his government’s failings onto those with little power or ability to challenge him. His first accusations were against care homes – with claims that “too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures’’ (BBC, 2020) – but over the past few weeks the Prime Minister has found a new target: young people. With the easing of lockdown restrictions, Johnson has told his ministers to “ensure that there is ‘no complacency’ among the public, particularly young people” (The London Economic, 2020). This was an interesting comment considering that it was one of these cabinet ministers who made news headlines as a result of his own complacency, ignoring the guidelines for the nationwide lockdown just months ago (The Guardian, 2020).

It is undeniable that infection rates have risen among young people. Public Health England recently published statistics suggesting that infection rates have risen far higher in the 20-29 age category than any other age group since July 2020 (Public Health England, 2020). In Weeks 34 and 35 of measurement, 20-29 year olds accounted for over 4,000 cases, while those in the 80+ category had fewer than 1,000 positive cases (Public Health England, 2020). That being said, this increase would correlate with the relaxation of lockdown measures – from ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’ to ‘Stay Alert’ – and the introduction of measures such as the ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme; which were aiming to spur the nation, but more pertinently the economy, back to normality.  

The hypocrisy intensifies when one considers this initiative, along with the guidelines to reopen shops, would not have been possible without the 1,328,791 people aged 16-49 who work in sales occupations (Office for National Statistics, 2019). Not to mention the new jobs created by the ‘Kickstart Scheme’ which is directly intended to “help young people into work and spur Britain’s economic revival’’ (Gov.uk, 2020) – these young people, from a health-risk perspective, are the ideal demographic to not only staff the mid-COVID labour force, but also get out and start spending.

Instead of thanking the service industry workers, who put their own safety at risk by coming into contact with members of the public everyday, the government has blamed the spread of Coronavirus on those who are “socialising in their 20s and 30s’’ (Politics Home, 2020).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m know that there are young people who have broken the rules surrounding social distancing (e.g. two rave organisers in South Wales were fined £10,000 for holding an illegal gathering (The Guardian, 2020)) which will have contributed towards the high infection rates we’re starting to become accustomed with. However, as someone who works in the service industry, I find it insulting that by risking my own health to support the restarting of the economy, my colleagues and I are now being used as a scapegoat for the government’s failures.

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