You shouldn't break lockdown rules, even if you feel justified in doing so

Amber Lennox 22 February 2021

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of InQuire Media

Image courtesy of Eneas De Troya on Flickr

50 million dead. 500 million suffering. These numbers represent the suffering and death brought by the four waves of Spanish Influenza that hit the globe over 100 years ago. We now find ourselves in similar circumstances, but we are far more equipped to pull through than our predecessors were all those years ago. The best thing we can do now to save ourselves and the vulnerable is sticking to lockdown rules. Despite “Generation Covid’s” apparent advantage over “Generation Spanish Flu”, with our advanced knowledge and understanding, there's still a general disregard for the rules we all know are there to keep us safe.

Lockdown rules are not exactly clear cut. Understandably, the ambiguity surrounding the ‘stay at home rule’ allows for some kind of wiggle room given an apparent allowance for those who may find their studies or mental health negatively impacted to return to term-time addresses. However, there are definitely people who have taken advantage of these exceptions in bad faith; large parties are hardly excusable on the grounds of “mental health reasons”.

When taking advantage of such allowances, you are not just breaking some silly guideline, you are breaking a law put in place to protect us. Intensive Care Units (ICUs) are overrun with Covid cases. NHS nurses from other sectors are having to cover the ICUs, and even then, each nurse has at least two or three patients to attend to, where they should only have one. Think about that for a moment. This means that people who are dying, and not just from Covid, are not getting the care they need because we continuously fail to do our bit to protect ourselves and others.

These times call for compassion and understanding above all else. So might we not extend that sentiment to those who bend lockdown rules for genuine mental health reasons? Can we really condemn someone who, to stave off that encroaching loneliness that threatens to overcome so many of us these days, creates a bubble with another household? Of course, it is legal to do so if you’re living alone, but for many, even if your housemates are around, you might still feel lonelier than ever without a good support system within your household. Especially with so many students being stuck indoors with parents they may not get along with, it makes sense that some students have felt the need to return to their uni accommodation against government advice.

Mental health is so often overlooked or treated as taboo, so perhaps a silver lining to this pandemic is that we have become far more open to the conversations about mental health, given that most people's mental health has suffered as a result of multiple lockdowns. Lockdown has hit many of us in incredibly similar ways, yet it feels like we're facing it alone.

It is no wonder that lockdown rule-breakers feel justified in their transgressions: we’ve all been done dirty by a government that can’t clearly lay out rules, or implement sufficient measures in the first place. Students across the country, and the public at large, are right to feel exasperation at the government’s half-measures and we shouldn’t be surprised to see this frustration manifest itself in rule-bendings that make the purgatory that is the country’s third lockdown more bearable. It's understandable that some feel that unless they break the rules, the rules will break them.

Yet, even if you make sure to act cautiously, taking care not to endanger others and to minimise possible knock-on effects, you can't truly gauge the effects of your actions. The best option continues to be to just stick it out and stick to the rules. Moving back to uni is not as bad as hosting a large party, and acting to preserve your mental health is a valid motive. But the fact remains: the longer people continue to break the rules, with or without good justification, the longer they will remain in place. We are not facing it alone, and how you choose to cope with it directly affects others. Though breaking lockdown rules is in some cases justifiable, it is still a slap in the face to those who abide by the rules despite feeling just as isolated and to those who have lost their lives to the virus.

But if acting out of altruism is not feasible, then stick to the rules out of self-interest. We may not be in the high-risk bracket, but we’re still vulnerable to the unpredictable side-effects and long-term effects of the virus. The government hasn’t handled the pandemic in the most optimal way. That can't be denied. But the best thing we can do in these shitty circumstances is to sacrifice our usual comforts and freedoms to protect ourselves and others, so that we can finally put an end to the strife we are all facing apart, but together.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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