Seven months into this, you could be forgiven for being a little confused about what the current coronavirus rules are. Our heads are swimming with slogans: first it was Stay Home, Stay Safe; then Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives. Eat Out to Help Out caught the public mood for a while; now it's all about the Rule of Six and – drumroll please – tiers of pain.
Are you in Tier 1, 2 or 3 – and what do they mean in practise?
You would think that at the very least, the people in charge might have some idea, but alas. As Nick Robinson discovered on the Today programme this morning when interviewing Labour's Dr Alan Billings, the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire where Tier 3 restrictions will be coming into force at midnight on Saturday, it seems even the powers that be are in a tizz about the new tiers.
"I don't want to be cruel, Dr Billings, but are you willing to give it a bash?” asked Robinson. "Do you know how the rules will be different about going to restaurants between now and Saturday?"
Fumbling, Dr Billings said that wasn't his job, but admitted it was up to the police to understand what the changing regulations were. He warned that officers had to distinguish very carefully between what is the law and what is simply advice.
Robinson shot back: "I take the point that it's up to them and not to you, but do you know the answer? Can you meet someone in Sheffield for a meal now and will you be allowed to do it on Saturday?"
The commissioner said people couldn’t meet others for a meal who are not from their household.
Robinson confirmed that at the moment in both Tier 2 and Tier 3, people can only go to a restaurant with someone they live with or who is in their support bubble. "Don't the police have to do a slightly better job of mugging up on the rules?” he put it to Dr Billings. "It took me precisely 30 seconds to find that out on Google a moment ago. It's not really that complicated. If you're facing a committee of MPs, you've got to do a bit better than that, haven't you?"
To be fair to Dr Billings, he is by no means the only one. Even the Prime Minister has slipped up on occasion. In a speech last month (when we were still living in a pre-tier world), Mr Johnson was asked to clarify whether people from two households in the north-east of England were allowed to meet in a pub garden.
His response mixed up the legal ban on two households socialising indoors with the Rule of Six. "It is six in a home, six in hospitality but as I understand it, not six outside," he said – only to U-turn later in the day, with a clarification that actually, new rules meant “you cannot meet people from different households in social settings indoors, including in pubs, restaurants and your home. You should also avoid socialising with other households outside."
When Alok Sharma was sent on the Today programme in early October, host Martha Kearney asked him if he knew the rules. “It’s not a quiz”, he answered sniffily.
We must disagree, Mr Sharma. Test how well you know the rules in the following quiz. All questions pertain to England, unless stated otherwise.