MARY HARRINGTON: Resist Covid restrictions for the sake of our young people who have sacrificed so much
Drum beat has started for another round of Covid restrictions.
The NHS Confederation, the body representing NHS staff, wants the government to impose a ‘plan B’ to deal with growing cases – again with mandatory masks in public spaces, work from home and vaccine passports.
The Unite union has called for the reimposition of masks on public transport.
The British Medical Association on Thursday accused ministers of “willful neglect” for rejecting the move to “Plan B”.
So far, officially at least, the government has resisted these calls.
And dissenting Tory MPs condemned them, with Steve Baker accusing technocrats of sacrificing British freedoms on the altar of healthcare administration.
The NHS Confederation wants the government to impose a “plan B” to manage the growing cases, with masks again mandatory in public spaces, work from home and vaccine passports
He says: “We cannot allow the freedoms of the people of this country to be a tool for managing the capacity of the NHS.”
But as Britain grapples with such calls to ‘protect the NHS’ at the expense of our daily lives, it is worth remembering who has paid the highest price for the measures taken to protect it so far. . Also, who is most worried that the NHS will collapse.
With a UK birth rate lower than the replacement rate since the 1970s, the baby boomer generation is the largest cohort in the country, with 14.28 million members in 2019.
According to the Financial Times, around 80% of all UK wealth is owned by this group, including more than half of UK real estate wealth.
And with baby boomers now flocking to retirement, one of the most troubling trends in politics has been an increasingly open rupture in the solidarity between this powerful and wealthy demographic and the generations that come after it.
The best-known example of this conflict is the stalemate between older people struggling with excessive housing development and young people desperate for affordable housing.
This battle recently saw the seemingly secure Conservative seat of Chesham and Amersham in Buckinghamshire fall to the Lib Dems, in a by-election campaign dominated by a debate over building the green belt.
Another problem is how to finance the rising costs of social care for adults, as the proportion of working adults and taxpayers to retirees is declining.
But perhaps the least discussed source of tension is, for many, literally a matter of life and death: the Covid restrictions.
The government has so far resisted these calls for another round of Covid restrictions
Throughout the pandemic, support for restrictions has been highest among older generations.
Ninety-two percent of those over 65 supported the lockdown, according to a YouGov poll in January.
This is understandable, because (according to Age UK) the risk to life of catching Covid increases rapidly beyond the age of 60, from less than one in 1,000 under the age of 60 to 18 in 1,000 for the older ones. 90 years old.
Overall, however, Britons of all age groups supported the lockdowns, showing commendable solidarity to help protect those most vulnerable to serious illness.
But while the lockdowns have wreaked havoc on all of us, they have had a cruel impact on young people, starting with babies and their mothers.
Mental health charity Mind reports that with the closure of support groups and services and the ban on family visitation, new moms have faced health anxiety and postpartum isolation .
Miserable mothers mean miserable babies: 47% of new mothers surveyed by the Parents-Children Foundation expressed their concerns about their little ones’ adhesion.
Another 26% were concerned about the increase in crying and temper tantrums. The poorest mothers reported these concerns twice as fast as their wealthier peers.
And it’s not just the babies who have suffered. Children’s well-being has suffered at all levels: A recent study by YoungMinds found that 80% of young people said the pandemic had worsened their mental health.
It is also a devastated school.
Teachers worked hard during the lockdown to provide some kind of continuing education.
But shutting down schools blew up a huge crater in a generation’s learning – a crater that gets bigger the more you get poor.
According to the National Foundation for Educational Research, engagement has been uneven, with only about 40 percent of students handing in their final homework. In the most disadvantaged areas, the commitment was again 13% lower.
This is hardly surprising. Even the most motivated student would have a hard time learning from a distance if confined to a cramped or chaotic house, with limited internet access or study space.
And when the MSI Choices charity reports a 33% increase in domestic violence during the pandemic, it’s likely that many of these kids were trying to study under such frightening conditions.
Meanwhile, college-aged youth were encouraged to return to campus, to be locked away again and invited to log in to video lectures and tutorials from their digs – while paying full tuition.
It’s not just the students who are isolated. Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that people aged 16 to 29 were twice as likely as those over 70 to feel lonely during the pandemic.
As Britain grapples with such calls to ‘protect the NHS’ at the expense of our daily lives, it is worth remembering who has paid the highest price for the measures taken to protect it so far
And the Mental Health Foundation reports that young people, full-time college students, and single parents were the most lonely.
Young people have also borne the brunt of the economic shock. Another ONS report shows that more than two-thirds of those who lost their jobs during the pandemic were under 25.
Young people who have kept their jobs have also been hit hard. Some older workers with families, spacious homes, and established careers have welcomed the opportunity to work from home – but the arrangement has been less successful for working young adults.
Early Career Employees Need Training: IPSOS reports that 60 percent of workers under the age of 24 and 50 percent of those aged 25 to 40 have had difficulty being deprived of face-to-face time with their colleagues.
And to top it off, the government recently announced that working-age adults will have to pay a new ‘health and social care tax’ to help fund the NHS. For young graduates earning over Â£ 30,000, this will equate to a 50 percent tax rate.
According to a recent study, the death rate from Covid among those under 18 is around two in a million.
Despite this relatively low risk, young people made these sacrifices without complaint.
They sacrificed friendship, opportunity, education and mental well-being to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
They have shown a willingness to give up the experience of life, to face stunted career prospects and loneliness, to miss life, love and learning.
They suffered educational and developmental delays. Domestic violence. Poverty. High taxes to pay for the future.
British youth are far from the whiny, self-centered snowflakes of the cruel stereotype.
During the pandemic, they demonstrated civic solidarity for which we should all be grateful.
Now another wave of health terror is unleashed by politicians and technocrats.
It is not to protect the public. They do this to protect their frayed strongholds from the kind of pressure that would result in years of maladministration.
We can discuss all day how the NHS got into such a state that it may seem reasonable to abolish civil liberties so that our health care infrastructure does not collapse.
And of course, it is wrong to pit generations against each other.
Now, almost two years after the start of this horrific pandemic, we know the brutal facts about the risks and costs of Covid.
Pictured: NHS England National Medical Director Stephen Powis. While the lockdowns have wreaked havoc on us all, they have had a cruel impact on young people, starting with babies and their mothers.
If we ignore the asymmetric price children and young people pay for measures to control a virus that presents little danger to them, we will pit the old against the young.
No one is threatening to revert to full lockdown – yet. But we are told that Cabinet Office officials are discussing a “plan C” that would ban mixing between households.
The rhythm of the drum is getting louder and louder day by day.
As the country faces this prospect, we need a lot more vocal solidarity for the young people who are Britain’s future.
They have sacrificed tremendously over the past two years, although they are at little risk from Covid themselves.
For the good of our community as a whole, and for the young people, we must stand up for everyday life.
For a generation of individualistic and secular baby boomers, often gripped by fear of death, this is a great demand.
But if Britain is to prosper as a nation across generations, it is vital to have higher principles than mere survival at all costs.
Mary Harrington is editor-in-chief at UnHerd.