Stop blaming students for the second wave of COVID-19
At a time when we should all be pulling together, there is no room for blame
“I hope all students suffer mental illness as a result of lockdown. These students deserve the vilification they get” was left as a comment on Nottingham Post and later reposted to The Nottsfessional last week.
With the news that at least one university student has died every week since the start of term, many of these as a result of mental health, this insensitive comment highlights the wider problem – more time is being spent blaming students for the second wave of COVID-19, than helping those of us who are struggling.
It’s human nature to want to blame someone or something when things go wrong, but in this case, there really is no one to blame other than the virus itself. No matter what restrictions are in place, there will always be a small minority from every age group who dissent. Yes, there are some parties, and Nottingham’s had its fair share, but the sweeping generalisation that all students are organising house parties, spreading COVID-19 and killing the locals is unfair, and simply untrue.
There is a combined total of around 70,000 students enrolled at Uni of and Trent. Quite obviously, 70,000 house parties haven’t taken place over the last two months. Nonetheless, if you ask someone who is to blame for the second wave, the answer will undoubtedly be ‘the students and their house parties.’
But are students anymore to blame than those who sent us back to university? With over 2 million students leaving their family homes and moving across the country to live with many others in their university accommodations, surely it was inevitable that cases would rise? Students can’t be blamed for following the advice of their university and the government in moving across the country.
This year’s freshers were sold the dream of a normal, safe and fun freshers, just like any other, only to be locked in their rooms for weeks with limited support from their university. By the same token, the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was aimed at those less vulnerable (i.e. young people), encouraging us to go to restaurants, supporting the hospitality industry. We are now being blamed for the repercussions of doing exactly as we were asked.
As part of the lockdown speech on Saturday 31st October, the Chief Medical Officer showed a COVID-19 positive case heat map for England by age group. This data showed that the most positive cases lie within the age range of 16-29 year olds, which is the category that the vast majority of students fall into. However, what this presentation failed to acknowledge is the fact that most universities have their own testing facility. This means that as students we can get tested faster and easier than anyone else in the country. When I went to book a test in October there were 260 slots for a same day appointment on campus, and I booked a test for two hours later. Is it not possible that 16-29 year olds have seen more cases because we are getting tested more?
Regardless of the reason for more positive cases in students, the generalisations that we don’t care and that it is entirely our fault are undeniably false. We’re not all throwing parties, getting off and not wearing our masks. However, this minority is being portrayed as a majority and it’s damaging. It is equally possible to argue that large swathes of the older population disagree with mask wearing and can often be seen without them – the 45-year-old man sat in Wetherspoons every weekend refusing to wear a mask as he gets up to go to the toilet, sharing the disease with several others, is surely equally to blame. But let’s forget about him and let’s blame the students, because I saw on the news that one of them had a party!
At a time when everyone should be pulling together, there is no room for blame. We, as students, are not to blame.