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This government is so confused – we go from lockdown to tier 3 and back again and have no idea what any of it means

Mark Steel
·5-min read
<p>So can we go to the pub or not?</p> (PA)

So can we go to the pub or not?

(PA)

This is fun now. They have no strategy for containing this virus, so one moment they scream that we’ll beat it because we’re British and it’s in our spirit, and we didn’t get to own India by staying in a bubble of six. Then the R number increases to 3 million, as the scientists predicted, and so they say, “no one could have predicted that”, and we all have to go back inside.

Now they’re so confused, we go from lockdown to tier 3 and back again and have no idea what any of it means.

When a minister is asked, they give answers such as: “The maximum number allowed outside is six but inside it’s one, so if someone comes into a room you’re already in, you must demolish the building you’re in immediately, so you are now outside. However, if you then see six other people outside, one of you must make a bivouac out of twigs and go inside.”

Or: “You’ll be allowed 15 people at weddings but 25 at funerals, so if you want to invite extra people to the reception in the evening, you’ll need to murder one of the guests, then you can let in 11 more, as long as you don’t use the same flowers for both ceremonies.”

Better, still: “If you are hearing voices from an imaginary person, you must ask them to wear an imaginary mask. And ventriloquists must keep their puppets in a box, even if they scream, ‘I don’t want to go in the box’, unless they can project their voice to somewhere inside tier 2.”

One example of the confusion is that, as we’re all heading into tier 2 or 3, we will be allowed to have 4,000 fans back at football matches. So we can’t have more than six outside together, unless it’s 4,000, then it’s alright. This means if you want to have a party, and there are 50 people you want to invite, you either have to tell 44 of them they can’t come, or invite an extra 3,950. And make sure they all come, because if only 3,999 turn up, they all have to go home, in groups of six.

It would be marvellous if they were allowing fans back because the virus had slowed down, but it’s at a higher rate than in the summer when no one was allowed into sporting events. As with many of these rules, it feels like Boris Johnson is suffering from severe short-term memory loss.

So he goes: “Hang on, why are all the pubs shut?” “Because that’s where the virus spreads.” “What virus? Open them up.”

Then two weeks later he says: “Oh my Lord, all the pubs are open, don’t you know that’s where the virus spreads. Shut them down.”

This is why, although we all want to be optimistic about the vaccine, can we really believe the promises that we’ll be 80 per cent back to normal by April? These are the same people that told us we’d have a “world-beating track and trace system by May”; that Britain was “leading the world” in fighting the virus; that we would “turn things round in 12 weeks”, 35 weeks ago; and that it was our duty to go to the pub because Britain was back open, five months ago. They’re like a junkie who says, “THIS time I REALLY WILL pay you back.”

No other country is making this claim, but maybe that’s because the vaccine will swim here first, because we’re Britain and we invented the steam engine.

If there is a strategy, it appears to be to make promises in inverse proportion to the reality. So if the vaccine doesn’t arrive, Boris Johnson will announce he’s found a way of turning rain into a vaccine, or scientists assured him his spit cures the virus, and he’s already gobbed a bucketful.

On top of that, the last thing they had to order was protective equipment for medical staff, so they ordered plane-loads of equipment that didn’t fit anyone. When nurses said they were short of the equipment, Matt Hancock said it was because nurses were changing them too often.

So we know there will be a series of disasters with this vaccine. Maybe they’ll mix it up with old stocks of Sunny Delight being kept for scientific research, and turn the country orange. Or they’ll put the wrong address into a sat nav, so all the vaccine is driven into a country lane in Wiltshire where the lorries get stuck under a low bridge, and it’s all eaten by pigs, except the ones who are anti-vaxxers, who will rampage round the countryside.

They’ll order the wrong size of syringe because they were offered a batch from Turkmenistan, made by a company run by a politician’s brother-in-law. So they’ll appeal to heroin addicts to hand in any they’ve got spare.

Then Matt Hancock will inform us it’s our own fault, for not having holes in our arms so they can just pour it into us through a funnel made of cardboard.

And all this is timed perfectly to coincide with Brexit, with no deal in sight, so the vaccine has to come into the country at the exact moment Kent has been designated a 45-mile lorry park, and it’s to be in tier 3. So the entire population will have to walk to Kent, to join with several hundred thousand lorry drivers, but only six will be allowed into the Kent bubble at once, so the rest of us will have to bobble about in the Channel, watched by Priti Patel who will assume we're refugees and have us all deported to an island in the south Atlantic.

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