With April 12 having arrived yesterday and the pubs and shops finally opening again in England, albeit in rather arctic conditions, it’s easy to think of life going back to normal.
Personally I was delighted to see my friends after months with a border terrier as a daily companion. Dare I admit my pals and I toasted “cry freedom”, in the words of Matt Hancock, as we had our first drink.
I tend to assume that everyone my own age (32) and younger is on the same page, eager to get going. The pandemic put society on pause, but now it’s back on play.
And yet every now and then one is reminded that everyone’s experience over the last year has been very different. Yes, lots of us were out last night, photographed by the press, no doubt, for looking dangerously cheerful.
But at the same time there will be some mixed feelings about lockdown, reopenings and so forth among my age group – and indeed every age group. For instance, one newspaper recently polled the British public and found that fifteen per cent of people in my age group liked lockdown, and seven per cent “strongly” liked it. Those younger responded similarly.
Who are these people? I wondered. It makes you realise that it’s impossible to make assumptions about how young and young(ish – like me) people will respond to reopenings in the current weeks, nor what our new “normal” will look like, as it’s been such a strange/ terrible/ (insert your own description here) year.
While the Government will want everyone to get out and about – and let’s hope for the best, perhaps there will be a bit of hesitancy moving forward, as well as people wanting to keep elements of the lockdown.
One thing that’s overlooked about young people and reopenings is that they can be just as nervous about getting Coronavirus as older generations. The Government even thinks it needs vaccine passports to encourage young people to get inoculated.
Personally I am at the “relaxed” end of the spectrum in regards to my own risk. However, most of the people I know want their jab as soon as possible. Some young people may not even want to eat out/ shop until they’ve had it. They don’t need nudging for a vaccine at all, as the idea of Covid or having to isolate for weeks (financially risky for those who can’t work from home) is offputting enough.
There are also going to be big financial challenges for reopenings, particularly for those in their early twenties. While Rishi Sunak has done his utmost to protect jobs, data from last year showed that the under-25s experienced the biggest rise in unemployment during lockdown and they were more likely to be furloughed than any other group. Along with the trouble that’s been happening at universities, and increased calls to mental health services, this generation is going to need a lot of Governmental and societal support to get back on its feet.
One of the only good things for young people about lockdown was the working from home revolution, which has given some financial security. Perhaps this explains the fact that some have “liked” lockdown in the aforementioned poll, as it allowed so many to relocate/ put money away that would have otherwise gone on commuting, or other expenses.
The Government should go with working from home trends, instead of trying to engineer people moving back towards the office, as it’s helping to alleviate the problems with the housing market – a lot of which stem from demand being too high in the South East. Young people benefit from this change, as do the towns which they breathe new life into.
Overall this piece isn’t to put a downer on reopenings – and last night was a truly joyful occasion (even if it was almost impossible to find a table). But we need to acknowledge that it will be a mixed snapshot, in regards to how people feel as the economy reopens. It’s easy to think young people can go back to normal straight away, but many of them, despite having the fortune of low risk from the virus, have had a tough year, which will affect how the next months play out. Let’s keep this in mind.