We should be clear about the reality of this lockdown, we know that the elderly and those with existing health conditions are most vulnerable, whether that be in our care homes or local communities. But those within the 20 – 30 age bracket are disproportionately feeling the effects of something which doesn’t impact them severely. There is no way out escaping COVID19 entirely, but the release of this demographic is step one of a staged route exit with the lowest level of risk, whilst balancing to ensure there is an economy to go back to.
Whilst not totally risk free, there is far less danger for the young. With everyday of lockdown passing by, their lives and futures are being destroyed by its static imposition. Never before has a government imposed peacetime restrictions of this nature, and never before has it resulted in so much damage to the majority to protect the minority. We should look after the elderly and vulnerable, it is the mark of a just and civilized society. But there are better ways of doing so than imposing a mass lockdown for all ages. The countrywide lockdown was important and required, however this is now providing a path for opening up to the new normal.
A study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) stated that the younger generation “have it worse off…young people leaving school or graduating from university this summer are likely to be affected especially badly.” It was added: “We know from previous experience that this not only will lower their chances of getting a job immediately and will lower their wages substantially if they do, but that those effects will persist for several years.” Having grown up during the years of mass austerity caused by the 2007-08 financial crash, the prospects for this year group is already hindered. People of our age require the opportunities to contribute, accumulate and prosper. Not for individual benefit, but a robust young demographic provides a strong and stable healthcare system which can be properly funded. No more claps at 20:00 on a Thursday, the biggest applause we can give our heroes is by giving them the resources they need.
And it is not just the young who will suffer. The economic cost of the lockdown is mounting alarmingly. The Bank of England has forecast a scenario in which the economy slumps 14% this year. It also has a lockdown rule of thumb; every two weeks of additional lockdown costs 1.25% of gross domestic product, or £28bn. If the economy suffers, we all suffer. We need a way to pay for our NHS, the mass borrowing under business support loans for so many of Britain’s businesses. Going back and the gradual reopening for this sector of the population will boost the vital recovery, putting people to work again.
By focusing so intently on the immediate and present health risks, the government has taken its eye off future risks, not least that failure to get the economy going will leave the country unable to fund a health service. The youngest are champing at the bit to be released from lockdown purgatory and there is no good reason, assuming they are not living with the elderly, they should not be. Professors Andrew Oswald and Nattavudh Powdthavee of Warwick University have set out in detail the case for releasing the young from lockdown, beginning with those in their twenties.
As they point out, about 4.2 million individuals fall in the 20-30 age group and do not live with parents. Of these, 2.6 million work in the private sector and are seeing their jobs and career prospects badly affected by the lockdown. A release of the young, they argue, would lead to “substantial economic and societal benefits” without significant health costs.
We need an economy to go back to, aspiring young adults’ ambitious in their careers whilst helping the common endeavour required by its nation. This national tragedy, this crisis has caused so much hurt – but one thing we must recognise is that planning for the future is more important than ever. Not only can the healthy young adults kickstart the economy, they will also be providing an important service to the country. The staging could be released from 20-30, 30-40, 40-50 etc. Ensuring when safe to do so, the other demographics can slowly enter the “new normality.” There is no easy decision, but this could be one route.