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Row over claims young people have become ‘complacent’ over coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 12:18 17 July 2020 | UPDATED: 18:39 17 July 2020

Sheila Young, Conservative county councillor for Gaywood North and Central. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Sheila Young, Conservative county councillor for Gaywood North and Central. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Norfolk Conservatives

Norfolk cannot afford to relax over coronavirus, the council’s deputy director of public health has warned, as councillors raised concerns people are getting “complacent” about the risk of the disease.

Norfolk county councillor Shelagh Gurney. Photo: Shelagh GurneyNorfolk county councillor Shelagh Gurney. Photo: Shelagh Gurney

Norfolk county councillors said they were particularly concerned young people had forgotten the virus is still in circulation and that supermarket shoppers were not sticking to social distancing.

However,some of their comments led to claims from opposition councillors that they were “demonising” young people.

Concerns were raised at a meeting of the county council’s people and communities select committee.

Suzanne Meredith, Norfolk’s deputy director of public health, told the meeting there had been fewer than 20 new cases of coronavirus over the past two weeks.

David Bills, Conservative county councillor for Humbleyard. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.David Bills, Conservative county councillor for Humbleyard. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

She said: “The numbers are extremely low in Norfolk. Our R rate is amongst the lowest in the country and we want to keep it that way.

“People may feel that because we are not having much in Norfolk at the moment that they can relax. We cannot relax. We have to keep going.”

And councillors said they feared people were getting complacent.

Shelagh Gurney, Conservative councillor for Hellesdon and chair of the committee, said: “I went to Asda the other day to do a shop and I was horrified. People were all over the place.

“I was shoved by someone over the reduced counter section. I spoke to them and said they weren’t supposed to be bumping me along, Regrettably, it’s become very lax.

“People are not getting the message that this is very serious. It’s like ‘whoopee! It’s party time, again.’”

Fabian Eagle, Conservative councillor for The Brecks, said “it is the complacency that worries me”, while David Bills, Conservative councillor for Humbleyard, said: “My concern is getting through to the youths, particularly in my area. They seem not to be too concerned about it and if you gently ask them to keep their distance, they say ‘who are you and what’s it got to do with you?’”

Sheila Young, Conservative councillor for Gaywood North and Central, said: “Some of the young people are abusing everything. I drove through the next village to mine on Saturday and at a small bus shelter there were 10 young people - all of them necking.

“I don’t imagine any of them were in the same family. It was absolutely disgusting. The same sort of abuse I see practically everywhere.”

Speaking after the meeting, Tim Adams, Liberal Democrat councillor for Cromer, said on behalf of his group: “The young people of Norfolk are one of the groups we’re most concerned about post-COVID - but not because they’re being complacent, far from it.

“Poor leadership in Norfolk has led to a situation where Norfolk’s young people were already struggling with housing, education and employment - and all the evidence suggests they’ll be the hardest hit in terms of prospects in the medium to long term.

“It’s no wonder they’re restless but to suggest that they’re being abusive or complacent misses the point.

“It sounds like Norfolk Conservatives need to get a bit closer to the reality of life for our young people, and do something constructive to help them as part of the recovery.”

And Labour’s Mike Smith-Clare, who represents Yarmouth Nelson and Southtown, said: “Why on earth are Norfolk’s young people being so unfairly demonised?

“It seems ironic that certain members are happy to criticise the behaviour of a specific age group when their government has repeatedly cut and closed most of their support frameworks that were in place to support them.

“I have more issues with the possibility of young people missing out on future training than concerning myself with bus shelter necking!”

MORE: Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has not had new coronavirus case for three weeks


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