Making up the rules as we go along

The lockdown eases Corona confusion

Prior to the second lockdown, “confusing” was the word on the lips of many when asked about the Covid-19 restrictions in their part of the country. Indeed, some suggested that the “tier” system be renamed the “tear” system, as it frequently brought them to tears – and not of laughter.

When Boris Johnson apologised for confusing his own lockdown rules last month he was not alone, even within government. A junior minister earlier admitted to the BBC that she did not know whether new regulations extended to outdoor settings such as pubs and beer gardens.

The government has insisted that we will return to the tiered system after lockdown. If so, then more must be done to ensure that we do not return to the confused picture we had, especially as an area switches from one tier to another, which several did, right up until lockdown.

Even the police, charged of course with enforcing the rules, struggled to keep up with the changes. When speaking last month to the Commons Home Affairs Committee, two senior police officers couldn’t give the correct answer to what should have been a relatively simple question.

Assistant Chief Constable for Herefordshire, Owen Weatherall, was asked whether under Tier Two, people from two households could meet indoors, but the confused cop, who is strategic lead on Covid for the National Police Chiefs Council, could only say, “I haven’t got the regulations in front of me, so I can’t give you a definitive answer.”

And when the same question was put to Lancashire chief constable, Andy Rhodes, he said he would, “give it a bash,” before coming up with the wrong answer!

Committee chair, Labour’s Yvette Cooper, informed the officers that under Tier Two, mixing households indoors was banned.

In fairness to the police there were multiple rule changes, and most forces only issue fines for clear breaches, such as throwing illegal raves or holding house parties. The new lockdown at least helps clarify things for the police as much as for the rest of us, most of whom were doing our best to comply with the rules.

One rule that we should not return to is the one that compelled pubs, bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m., even those in the lowest “Medium” risk areas, which was unpopular nationwide. Owners, managers and customers all voiced the opinion that it did more harm than good by spilling too many people onto the streets and onto public transport at the same time.

What our surveys show

To reflect the changing situation and potentially changing opinions, we took two polls on this issue: the first in early October and a second just before the imposition of the second lockdown.

The introduction, in mid October, of the three tier system, was aimed at “simplifying and standardising” the regulations, but our surveys show that, if anything, the level of confusion only increased.

In early October, 73% of us found the Covid-19 rules either “very confusing” or “somewhat confusing” but by the end of the month that figure had gone up to 78%.

As expected, our surveys found there was no great love for the rule forcing pubs, bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m. The percentage of those believing it was doing more harm than good came in at 43%, with precisely the same number thinking it made little or no difference to the spread of Covid-19.

Only 9% believed it actively helped in controlling the spread. Though largely in favour of supporting the need for restrictions, and of the lockdown, when we come out of it many of us would welcome the chance to make our own “common sense” decisions, with 63% of us favouring, to some degree, a higher level of self-regulation.



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