It is a bit odd to feel nostalgia for the early horrific days of lockdown in March and April but, especially for those of us who find ourselves in the more recently affected areas, it’s a bit inevitable.
When the national lockdown was announced, there was a simple message. Ministers appeared every day with senior public health officials to explain what Cobra was up to, what advice the SAGE group of scientists had offered, to answer questions, provide evidence and explanation and advice. People got in with it; compliance was high.
This time we get a clip of Matt Hancock standing in the dark in the street telling millions of people - all of Greater Manchester, Bradford, Leicester and other places - that they’re being shut down, sort of. No press briefing; no Chris Whitty; no Commons statement with questions; no sombre TV address; no public information ads. It's hardly a model of how to communicate in a crisis.
Right now, in Leicester where I am and across a large swathe of the north of England, nobody understands what is going on. The mess of contradictions about social distancing rules, masks, bubbles, family groups, self-isolation periods, where and how people can meet, about holiday plans, about how they and their families can survive financially as furlough ends, are all known unknowns.
We know only for sure, in other words, what information we lack to try and get through this. And there’s a lot of missing information.
It’s very unfair. The idle may muse upon whether, if these outbreaks were more often happening in traditionally Tory areas, things might be different. People in Leicester certainly feel that they’ve been hung out to dry because the city has three Labour MPs, a Labour council and mayor, Peter Soulsby. Information has not been fully shared locally, with awful consequences. There is no meaningful consultation before decisions are taken, and financial assistance is slow to emerge. Would it happen in Surrey or Uxbridge? You do rather wonder.
So Boris and his team have messed up again. It is, indeed, their fault. It looks like they couldn’t come to a rapid decision, hence the late night meetings, and when they did finally come to a decision they rushed out to tell us what it was before they understood the consequences. Perhaps it was because of the timing of the Muslim festival of Eid, when family groups would be expected to gather, as Christians and others do every Christmas, that there was this extreme urgency; that's understandable, but speed doesn’t help if the government doesn’t actually itself have a grip on what the people are supposed to do.
More significantly, if the problem is that people are not following the rules, as has been suggested, how will new, confusing and unenforceable rules change that?
We know that things are going to get worse, because the hard lessons of February and March haven’t yet be learned. No minister has lost their job or been publicly rebuked for their misjudgements or incompetence. And who is going to sack Boris Johnson?
Stay safe, if you can.