Despite currently being in the middle of a national lockdown, many students across the country continue to attend large social gatherings – often illegally.
According to a semi-recent study, on average young men have been particularly complacent about lockdown restrictions when directly compared to other demographics. It is estimated that over 50% of men aged 19-24 have breached lockdown at some point by meeting with a group of friends during lockdown.
Due to this worrying recent increase, local authorities are stepping up their efforts to combat those ignoring the government issued advice. Though the question remains: why are so many people now ignoring lockdown rules?
The broken promise of university party life
20-year-old Rostyn Bassett-Butt is a first-year university student who was keen to live a fast-paced and vibrant social life once arriving at university last September. Unfortunately for him, the emergence of a new national lockdown soon after proved to be a drastic complication to his plans.
However, Rostyn didn’t let coronavirus get in the way of his plans for partying, although this mindset got him into trouble with his university and the police – twice. He went into detail about his experiences with socialising under lockdown as he explained: “My friends and I all went to a different accommodation for a night out amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After a few hours of being there, the police were called, and it was shut down. Out of the whole room of about 30 people, my friend Oliver and I were the only people to get fined. Lying about my identity may have played a role in me receiving the fixed penalty notice (which is the £100 police issued fine).
“My second experience with a fine was in my own flat. We hosted a poker night for my friend group, who all live in the same accommodation complex as me, so we thought there would be zero risk. There were about seven people in total.
“Someone from my complex called the police complaining about noise, they came in, shut it down once again and issued more fines.”
Unfairly punished for socialising
While Rostyn admits that some of his recent behaviour was reckless, he believes that in some regards he has been unfairly treated. He offers more detail behind his feelings on the matter when he said: “The first fine was fair in my opinion and I do regret breaking the restrictions on this occasion.
“However, the second time was unfair as everyone who was present sees each other every single day anyway, and we all live in essentially the same place, meaning we were not making the pandemic situation any worse by hosting a seven-person poker night.
“The first fine was 100 from the police and 250 from the university. The second fine was 400 from the police and 300 from the university (but this was reduced to 175).”
Why is the advice not being followed?
Many other students like Rostyn have been blatantly ignoring any advice on social distancing and other safeguarding measures. Even though people like this have become recently vilified by society in general, the reasons behind their thinking are usually more complicated than people realise.
Describing his thoughts on why young people might choose to break lockdown, Rostyn said: “Young people break restrictions frequently, especially at university because they came here expecting the same experience all their friends received in previous years, especially the first year.
“This motivates them to host or attend illegal functions with little care for the risk of either being fined or making the COVID-19 rates worse.”
The actions of the social elite can easily influence the general public. Many major celebrities such as Rita Ora or government officials like Dominic Cummings have seemingly got away with breaking COVID-19 restrictions (sometimes repeatedly) with little to no consequences.
Rostyn explains how this kind of behaviour by celebrities can be detrimental as he said: “I think that people’s friends and friendship groups and celebrities have a huge role when it comes to people breaking COVID-19 guidelines.
“This is because people tend to idolise their celebrities and whenever they see them getting away with breaking the COVID-19 rules, they tend to want to do the same.”
Furthermore, young people’s mental health could also be considered another prominent factor in why many want to visit their friends and family as they have been experiencing intense feelings of loneliness during lockdown.
The aforementioned study theorises that there is a very strong positive correlation between how depressed a particular individual is feeling and how likely they are to break the rules.
Fined twice for visiting friends
The importance of staying at home
On the other hand, there are many young students who recognise the importance of the national lockdown and have respected the stay at home orders since their implementation last year.
Spencer Dunsford is also a university student but has not actually set foot on his campus this academic year as he continues to learn online remotely from home. He believes that if everyone follows the restrictions in place, the sooner we can all return to normal life. He vented his frustration as he said: “Except for the rare occasion, I have hardly left my house over the last few months.
“It is annoying when you hear about all these people attending large parties which are essentially super-spreader events. It’s because of people who can’t obey the rules that we are still in lockdown. It is slightly ironic that the people who want to exit lockdown the most are the ones delaying us all.
“I think many young people don’t care if they get infected because statistically, they are the most likely to survive being infected. What many don’t realise is that they could then go on to spread the disease to older or more clinically vulnerable people – which could potentially be fatal for them.
“I just hope people quickly realise that the only way through this is if we can all act together by staying home.”
The punishment for lockdown rulebreakers
Residents are expected to stay indoors during a national lockdown and can only leave their homes for work, education, on medical grounds, for essential activities such as exercise or for exceptional emergency reasons (usually where staying home would do more harm than good).
For a full list of exemptions, you can view the government’s official lockdown advice.
The police are working closely with the government to ensure the NHS does not become overwhelmed during the course of the pandemic. They have made it clear that anyone not willing to obey the rules will be fined accordingly.
Anyone aged 18 or over can now be fined £200 for the first offence, which is lowered to £100 if paid within a fortnight. This will then double upon each consecutive offence, up to a maximum of £6,400.
Parents are liable to pay fines for their children under 18 if they have broken any lockdown rules.
Those who refuse to pay the fines issued to them could be taken to court, where they could be potentially further fined an unlimited amount.
For more information about the current coronavirus guidelines and rules in the local area, you can visit Bedfordshire Police’s official website for further explanation.
When will restrictions be lifted?
Earlier last month, Boris Johnson set out his plans for the UK to exit lockdown. This is a multi-stage plan that will take place over the coming months. Some key-dates going forward are:
March 29: The stay at home order will be relaxed and families/friends will be able to meet outdoors, as long as they stay local.
April 12: All non-essential shops and hairdressers will be allowed to re-open. This includes hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants, but only those can only host outdoor customers. Public buildings such as libraries and museums can also begin to accept guests again.
May 17: The majority of rules relating to social distancing will be lifted and there will be a rule limt of 30 people per social gathering. All pubs and restaurants will be able to serve customers indoors.
June 21: It is expected that by this date, all legal limits on socialising will be gone.
All dates are currently preliminary and will be subject to change depending on the virus transmission rates throughout the UK.