I’m over 50 and all for lockdown if it’s needed – now’s not the time for selfishness

If keeping the strain off the NHS this winter means staying home then that’s fine. It will save lives and save the economy

Sean O'Grady
Monday 03 August 2020 19:43
Boris Johnson ‘orders preparations to avoid second national lockdown’

“Over 50s” isn’t a very attractive sounding name for people. I prefer “baby boomer”, which has a certain vibe to it, and reminds everyone that it was us lot that made Britain what it is today (cuts both ways, admittedly). Some of us were punks, you know, and hippies, and Thatcherites, generally independent-minded people.

In other words, we do not all share the same view – and we are not all anti-lockdown. Some of us actively welcome age-related coronavirus precautions – being shielded and protected. Some of us like the idea of extended house arrest. We are not raring to get to the nearest rave and we’re too old to pogo.

We should also all accept that our natural individualism and libertarian sympathies have their limits in a pandemic. A public health emergency imposes certain obligations on all of us, because what we do as individuals affects others, in obvious ways. We’re mature enough to see that.

So I resent finding people lumping us all together, along with the older “golden generation”, and then speaking for all of us, arguing that we’re all against the emergency age-related Covid-19 measures being planned for winter, shielding those over 50.

We are not one big undifferentiated Conservative-Brexity blob of demographic homogeneity – we are obviously able to speak for ourselves, like the millennials or Gen Z are able to. We are also equally capable of being responsible and doing the right thing.

Our fellow citizens need to know that we’re not all militantly against being shoved into enforced quarantine for the good of all if (when) the second wave arrives. We are not all "Covidiot" anti-maskers. I suspect a majority of the baby boomers and golden generation are cautious, and realistic, about how things are going to unfold as autumn folds into winter. Terrified might be a better word.

Self-isolation is no fun for anyone, but it is far, far better than the alternative, which is to find yourself on a ward intubated and unable to breathe, wishing you’d bothered with a will. If that means a few more months of staying indoors, especially when it’s cold outside, then that’s fine by me, and I am not alone.

Someone roughly my age wrote on Twitter the other day words to the effect that she’s had her day and didn’t want to wreck the economy for the young folks, sacrificing their futures just so she could eke out a few more years in a care home, or something. Speak for yourself, Sarah Vine. Some of us aren’t finished quite yet, and have no intention of making some needless sacrifice for anyone.

The fact is that the economy can be supported during this crisis, because borrowing by the state is easy and cheap, and if the economy is allowed to slide into a decade-long slump, that really will wreck futures, unless you happen to be very wealthy.

If there are tough choices to be made I’m happy to postpone a trip to the cinema or the boozer so that children can go to school, a perfectly reasonable trade-off for society to decide on. That will free parents to go to work too, boosting the economy.

If keeping the strain off the NHS this winter means staying home then that’s fine. It will save lives and save the economy. I concede that not everyone can work from home, but that is all the more reason to make sure those who can are encouraged to do so, simply to keep the virus under control; we need not be derided as skivers.

Besides, we seem to be losing all sense of perspective. Covid-19 will not last for ever. By this time next year, mass vaccination and herd immunity should be reached. We can go on holiday, go shopping and to the office and out for the evening with friends. It’s not that far away. We need to be patient.

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