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As slogans go, “Don’t Kill Granny” is pretty blunt.
The catchphrase was born in Preston, Lancashire, to warn young people about the consequences of ignoring coronavirus social distancing rules – unwittingly taking the virus back home to vulnerable relatives and friends.
Preston became the latest city to be placed into partial lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus after a spike in cases.
Council chief executive Adrian Phillips described young people as being “among the brave and the bold” who want to “be adventurous and out and about”.
But he warned: “The community spread we are seeing, we believe in many cases [is from] young people taking it home and catching the virus.
“I know our director of public health has said ‘Don’t Kill Granny’ to young people to try and focus the message.”
While some people have labelled “Don’t Kill Granny” as crass and insensitive – particularly to those who have lost grandparents during the pandemic – others have praised it for its powerful message.
But what does Granny think? HuffPost UK spoke to three grandmothers in Preston about the impact coronavirus and lockdown has had on their lives – and their views on the slogan.
‘I Sat In A Room On My Own As I Was So Scared Of The Virus’
When coronavirus first hit, Pervaze Bashir telephoned all her siblings in Pakistan as she feared she might not see them again.
The 69-year-old lives in Preston with her son and daughter-in-law and their five children – but when the coronavirus lockdown began, she spent most of her time alone in her bedroom and kept herself separated from her family.
“I was so scared and worried as I kept hearing how many people were affected by coronavirus and I was fearful for my own life,” she told HuffPost UK.
“Now lockdown has affected Preston again, I am sitting in a room on my own again as I am so anxious.”
Pervaze, who has five children and 21 grandchildren, says the latest lockdown and the rise in Preston coronavirus cases has made her feel depressed and is affecting her mental health.
“I miss my grandchildren,” she said. “I can’t have my grandchildren come round and I cannot go into other households or have visitors.
“I feel like everything in my life has stopped and socialising has come to a standstill as I can’t see family and friends. It feels like it is never going to end.”
Asked about the “Don’t Kill Granny” slogan, Pervaze says she fully supports it as younger people need to be urged to protect the vulnerable.
“I am very strict on following the rules and it does annoy me when other people don’t stick to them,” she said.
Her daughter Sonia Bashir, 39, told HuffPost UK coronavirus has hugely impacted her mum’s life, adding her fear of the virus increased when her aunt died of Covid-19 a couple of months ago.
“It is terrifying for her to see people in her own age group dying from coronavirus,” said Sonia, a photographer. “She has medical appointments for her arthritis but is getting paranoid about going into hospital.
“She desperately misses her grandchildren and is video calling them. When the little ones say: ‘Why can’t we come to your house?’ it’s very upsetting for her.
“But this lockdown needs to be done so we can all be safe and protect each other.”
Mum-of-three Sonia completely agrees with the Preston local lockdown and feels everyone needs to do their part by not visiting friends and maintaining social distancing.
“Lockdown has been very difficult,” she admitted. “My sister lives one door down from me and my mum only lives a short distance away. But I stopped visiting my family completely and it was very hard when we were used to seeing each other at least once a day.
“Now Preston is in lockdown again, I can’t see them again. But we all have to think this isn’t permanent and if everyone follows the rules, we can get through it quicker.
“‘Don’t Kill Granny’ is a powerful message and I hope it gets into the brains of the younger generation.
“There are so many different theories about why there’s been a rise of cases in Preston. Some people are blaming the Black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) community while others are blaming younger people gathering in pubs.
“I hope this slogan hits hard with younger people and makes them realise the consequences their actions could have.”
‘If Granny Died, You Wouldn’t Want That Guilt Hanging Over You’
Maxine Grant came to the UK from Jamaica in the 1950s. She is now 82 with four sons, 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
She has always been an independent woman who loved going out and spending time at Preston’s Jalgos Sports and Social Club, a centre for the city’s African Caribbean community, and she regularly attended church.
But the coronavirus pandemic coupled with her Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s have changed her life completely, and she has been restricted for many months.
“I have not been able to see my grandchildren for a while and that has been very hard,” she told HuffPost UK. “I miss the grandchildren coming round.
“But I have got used to the lockdown now and am just getting on with it.”
On the ‘Don’t Kill Granny’ message, Maxine says she completely agrees with it. “Younger people need to do more to protect people of my age.”
Her son Pete Grant, 48, who lives with Maxine and is her carer, told HuffPost UK he believes technology is the solution to stop the spread of coronavirus and that young people should use it to see and talk to each other rather than congregating.
“It’s very difficult for some young people to understand why they need to follow the rules of the lockdown,” he said. “They need to make sure they don’t mix with people and unknowingly take the virus home to grandparents who it can be very dangerous and even fatal for.
“The ‘Don’t Kill Granny’ slogan hits home as many grandparents are of an age when they are more susceptible and they may have illnesses so it is very important they are shielded.
“The higher rate of coronavirus deaths in Black and ethnic minorities makes it even more important people adhere to the rules.”
Maxine’s son Des Grant, 57, who is a DJ, told HuffPost UK he understands life is frustrating but says Britons historically have endured “all sorts of strife”.
“I don’t think it’s asking too much for people to wash their hands and wear a mask,” he said. “It’s not a great ask compared to what people went through during the war.
“The younger generation can still go out and socialise. But they need to social distance, wear a mask and take hand sanitiser with them.
“‘Don’t Kill Granny’ is a brilliant message. Coronavirus is an unseen killer and is an insidious disease.
“No one wants to see the roots of their upbringing destroyed by it. A young person could pick coronavirus up and bring it home to Granny. If she died, you wouldn’t want that guilt hanging over you.
“I think it’s a human issue rather than one restricted to young people. If something hasn’t happened to you, you tend to feel distanced from the problem. It’s the ‘it hasn’t happened to me so it won’t happen to me’ syndrome.
“I think our government needs to be stronger and enforce a stricter lockdown as this halfway house isn’t working.”
‘I’m Not Worried About Myself, But My Terminally Ill Granddaughter’
Michelle Heary only lives a few doors down from her daughter Jenna and her partner and her three grandchildren Kailen, eight, Olivia, four, and Harper, two.
But during the initial three-month coronavirus lockdown, Michelle kept away completely to protect Olivia, who is terminally ill with a rare condition that causes a form of severe epilepsy.
Now Preston is back under some lockdown measures, Michelle’s life is affected again as she can’t help out with caring for Olivia as much as she’d like.
She is firmly behind the “Don’t Kill Granny” slogan as she says it puts the risk of spreading coronavirus into perspective for young people.
But her personal fears centre around her grandchildren, particularly Olivia, as she doesn’t want to risk unknowingly exposing her to coronavirus.
“I am not worried about my own health, just Olivia’s, and I wear PPE whenever I am in contact with her,” she told HuffPost UK.
“This extra lockdown is difficult and frustrating and I think the rise is caused by younger people going to pubs and too many gatherings and private parties.”
Michelle is a cleaner at the university and admits she is concerned about the return of students in September.
“I know the university has put all the measures in place but it is whether the young people will stick to them and adhere to social distancing.
“I worry about exposure to the virus from them if they don’t follow the rules or wear their masks. I am worried for Olivia and about my brother who is in a hospice dying from cancer as, if I were to get infected, it would put them at risk.
“Younger people need to listen and take the ‘Don’t Kill Granny’ message seriously. Many think they’re invincible and that coronavirus won’t affect them.
“But it could be one of their parents or grandparents who get it and they could be putting them at risk.
“They need to think about their elders, the terminally ill and cancer patients.”
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