Only a few months have passed since the farcical decision that Muslim families would not be allowed to visit their families, in an announcement coming just two hours before the start of Eid celebrations. Then came Tory MP Craig Whittaker’s shameful interview where he claims that “it is the BAME communities that are not taking this (COVID-19) seriously enough” – which, needless to say, is wildly inaccurate. Desperate to find another scapegoat, the Tories’ Health Secretary Matt Hancock has now laid the blame upon young people for the latest spike in COVID-19 cases.

On Sunday 6th Sept, 2988 new COVID-19 cases were reported country-wide, bringing the seven-day rate to 20 cases per 100,000 people, which is the rate at which other European countries have started considering lockdown measures. 

One of the areas on the Government’s watchlist is Leeds, which has recorded 32.5 cases per 100,00 people. ‘House parties and illegal raves’ have been cited as an area of concern, with almost £10,000 worth of fines being handed out last week alone. 

However, the Leeds city council have stated that cases have been spread out evenly among different communities, citing a general increase in “leisure activities” as one of the main causes for the spike. There is little doubt that the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme has played a major role in this, considering its purpose was to get people back into pubs and restaurants to keep the economy afloat.

In an attempt to deflect the blame from the government’s incompetency, Hancock stated that “the rise in the number of cases over the last few days is largely among younger people… especially between 17 and 21” in an interview with LBC. He added that this “inevitably leads to older people catching it from them.”

In response the University and College Union (UCU) have condemned Hancock’s remarks as hypocritical, correctly stating that “students have been told to move, live, study and socialise together. It is totally unacceptable for [him] to try and suggest that they will be at fault for any second wave.” The general secretary of the UCU, Jo Grady, also stated that the Tories’ blame game amounts to “a complete shirking of their own responsibility.”

Indeed, if the Tories were seriously concerned about young people spreading the virus, they wouldn’t be so quick to send pupils back into schools and universities without adequate health and safety  measures in place.

It is blatantly obvious that the Government’s tactic here is to sow division among the public by blaming the behaviour of certain groups, all the while benefiting from the thousands of students moving into the cities, spending their money in the shops, bars and pubs. It’s no surprise that young people have been targeted, considering that support from the youth is a lost cause for the Tories.

Moreover, when a second wave arrives – which the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies predicts could kill approximately 85,000 people – Hancock and the rest of his morally bankrupt colleagues think they can rest assured knowing that the blame has once again been diverted away from the very architects of the disaster.

In the same interview, the Health Secretary urged young people “don’t kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on.” This ‘advice’ is as hypocritical as it is condescending. If the Health Minister was legitimately concerned about the lives of the elderly population, then maybe he would care to explain why COVID-19 patients were moved into care homes en masse, causing the virus to spread like wildfire among the sick and vulnerable residents, resulting in thousands of deaths. 

The Tories are mistaken if they think they can wash their hands clean of the blame for this crisis. As people are beginning to see through the web of lies spun by the demagogues in Downing Street, it is our job to cut through this divisive rhetoric, laying the blame squarely on the ruling class and their incompetent representatives in government. It is not young people, but rather the relentless pursuit of profit that is driving case numbers up.

To put an end to the COVID-19 crisis, we must build a militant opposition to the Tories and the capitalist system they uphold. We urge you to join the Marxist Student Federation in this fight!

by Callum Williams (Leeds Marxists)

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