“Don’t kill your granny by catching coronavirus and then passing it on” said Matt Hancock on Radio 1 a couple of days ago. What an awful thing to say and coming from the health secretary, this was a very ill-thought message to give out to young people.

Over the past week we have seen a national rise in the number of covid cases and evidence is suggesting that the origins of several of these transmissions is coming from the younger demographics. Local lockdowns have largely been the result of indoor gatherings, namely via house parties. Whilst I wholly condemn such activities, I think there is more to the picture.

This rise was already expected with the re-opening of schools, colleges, universities and businesses. With more people returning to work coupled with the seasonal contributions to viral infections, this rise did not come as a surprise.

Also it would be naïve to overlook the fact that back in March, at the outset of the first wave, testing was not available. The statistics we have now are not comparable to figures from 5 months ago. Furthermore, the leadership from England has been most confusing, where Boris Johnson chose to veer off the collective path of the devolved nations, issuing out complicated and ever changing messages.

How then could Matt Hancock put the blame entirely on younger people? I feel both sorry and angry on behalf of this group.

The majority of people have tried their best to follow the guidelines. The guidance from England has repeatedly been conflicting and whether we admit it or not, it has had a knock on effect on the delivery of public health messages in devolved nations.
We see examples every day of people – of all ages and backgrounds – trying their best to follow and comply with the rules. Young people especially have had to adapt the most and instead of thanking and empowering them, Matt Hancock thought best to blame them.

We are all aware that there is a minority who are not doing their bit but I feel the government needs to also accept their slip-ups in the management of the pandemic and stop blaming the public every time cases rise, especially as we have seen examples of poor compliance of rules within the leadership circles.

We have an economy to protect, an education system to deliver and a healthcare service to support but most of all, the government has a duty to boost morale, instil trust which in turn will enhance compliance and thus save lives.

Language is important when delivering messages to the public; it has to be a collaborative approach.

The re-opening of pubs and bars, in my opinion, has been a damaging contributing factor to the resurgence and spread of the virus.

To top this, the government has incentivised and actively encouraged us to “eat out to help out” and to engage in social activities. This being delivered - in a highly optimistic fashion - by the Prime Minister has led the public and especially younger people, to trust and believe that it is safe to relax.

Instead of blaming the public Boris, why not re-assess your strategy?

Is it really a surprise that people are struggling to keep distance in bars after having a few drinks? That people are enjoying going out again after months of lockdown because they’re being told it’s ok? And now when the inevitable is happening, let’s just blame the young!

I see countless patients at work.

I observe people on my day to day business and I am really impressed with how well people are adapting to the new normal, even though it’s having a significant impact on their mental health.

At schools, young people are doing their best to keep away from friends, to communicate through face coverings and to socialise online. It’s so unfair to make them feel guilty when the majority of young folk are being compliant.

Everyday I receive calls from young people who are suffering from anxiety, depression and a fear of their future. To hear such damning attitudes from the powers above is counterproductive and most unhelpful, not to mention that it adds another layer of stress and guilt.

We know that young people are more likely to be the vectors.

They are also less likely to suffer from serious consequences from the virus and many are likely to be asymptomatic carriers. This is not their fault. They are also in the cohorts most likely to be studying, working, parenting, caring and socialising.

To tell them to get on with their life and then blame them for the inadvertent potential deaths of their loved ones is just wrong. I would hate to carry this with me if I – who practices all the guidelines – passed the virus on without knowing to my gran. Matt Hancock, are you seriously making people feel responsible for the deaths of their loved ones?

Language is vital and speaking compassionately and thoughtfully to all members of the public is what we need more of. Collectively this is a challenging time and the winter ahead is going to be brutal.

We need clear guidance and leadership and simple messages. We need England to support the devolved nations who clearly have a better handle on things. I thank our lucky stars that Nicola Sturgeon is thinking ahead for us and is not blaming and shaming the public.

So to all young people out there, do your bit, follow the guidance but if you inadvertently pass the virus on to a loved one, despite all your efforts to stay safe, know that it’s not your fault. Thank you for all that you’re doing to help in the fight against COVID.