Illustration by Hannah Robinson

Students pride themselves as being at the cutting edge of social change and ‘making the world a better place’. Abundant evidence of this can be found all over campus in the form of posters, graffiti, and protests in favour of the staff strikes.

And yet, some of us, facing a pandemic which threatens upheaval to our own lives, have responded inconsiderately.

I write this from self-isolation, as I began coughing two days ago. Whilst incredibly mild – I don’t have a fever – I feel an obligation to those more vulnerable in society to stay at home.

In normal times, I would not hesitate to go for a quick pint or nip down to buy my supper in my current health. In the current situation, the over-70s in the pub or the pensioners on their mobility scooters in Sainsbury’s deserve better than dying, so that I can grab a loaf of bread.

On Monday afternoon, in a bid to step up measures to fight Covid-19, Boris Johnson asked those other members of a household in which one person is showing symptoms to self-isolate for 14-days.

Other new advice includes not going to pubs, clubs or theatres, and avoiding unnecessary social contact, regardless of whether or not you are showing symptoms.

‘You’re not showing symptoms. I’m not self-isolating’, was the response of one of my flatmates to Monday’s announcement. NHS advice suggests otherwise.

Yes, I probably do not have coronavirus, but why make that assumption for the sake of a pint or a trip to Portobello?

Those going into self-isolation are not virtue-signalling. Yes, my flat may be on the third floor, but I am not sitting on my high horse.

Young people are the least vulnerable in these challenging times. Many of us will carry the virus and show only the mildest symptoms. This does not give us a one-way ticket to carry on with what we want to do regardless. A mild cough for you or me is another person’s worst fear. Imagine if someone dismissed their cough because they wanted to nip into the pub quickly and started a causal chain which led to your grandmother contracting the virus and dying- how would you feel that her life was ended by such a silly, easily preventable, and, yes, selfish action?

‘Everyone understands the need to do it [act according to government advice]’, Boris Johnson has said in the first of his daily press conferences.

I fear students, and the young in general, may not understand. My experience is not an indicator of universal views among such demographics, of course, but such an attitude is easy to adopt, and if even one person thinks like that, that’s one too many. If blasé attitudes go viral in the minds of the young, the fight against this pandemic will not be a truly national one; worse, such short-sighted selfishness will cost lives.