Something for the Weekend: The Rule of Six Seems Straightforward to Me

In this week’s column, Ian Morris is bemused by people’s confusion on social media as the government’s new ‘Rule of Six’ guidance to address the pandemic took effect last week, and suggests a novel musical solution to any confusion.

How simple does it have to be? 

Last Monday saw the instatement of the ‘Rule of Six’ where we now have to meet in groups of less than six. This all seems pretty straightforward to me: if there are five of you go for your life, if there are seven of you, one of you has got to go. In the case of Snow White and the seven dwarves, two of the team are going to have to bale out, I would like to suggest ‘Stupid’ and ‘Intentionally Ignorant’ take the hike. 

[Editorial note: the government website states the rule of six ‘means that apart – from a set of limited exemptions including work and education – any social gatherings of more than six people will be against the law.’ A full list of the exemptions can be found here.]

I have seen a number of Facebook posts from people explaining how confusing the new rules are, and then setting out in minute detail all the relevant precautions you have to take in a certain scenario – showing they clearly understand what is required. There seems to be a tone in these posts of ‘I have to wear oven gloves when I am taking things out of the oven, but I don’t have to wear them to empty the washing machine, it’s so confusing.’ 

Let’s look at the way things have worked so far. When we had no precautions, it was very bad indeed, with the virus growing exponentially and tens of thousands of lives tragically lost. Lockdown was better from a Covid perspective, but led to lots of people losing their jobs, social isolation, mental illness, children not learning, the list is endless. 

It therefore seems staggeringly obvious that we all will have to find some middle ground that is more nuanced than either ‘go wild’ or ‘stay home’. Governments are having to tread a fine line, taking more risks in some areas than others, e.g. schools are back – higher risk; wearing masks in shops – lower risk; going back to work – higher risk; rule of six –  lower risk. It’s like driving a car. Sometimes you press the accelerator and sometimes you need to apply the brakes. 

This week the ‘get back to the office’ message was reversed and we were encouraged to stay home. Again, the media went wild. I don’t get it. When the infection rate was low, we were encouraged to go back and prop up all those little economies that surround workplaces and now this is too risky, we shouldn’t.

I watched aghast last Monday morning as the BBC Breakfast news was broadcast from Portsmouth and the surrounding area, and we had a family explaining how the rules made no sense. They then showed their youngest son going to a massive birthday party that had been ‘pulled forward from October to beat the rule of six deadline’.

Ah, that is excellent ingenuity, outwitting the virus by holding the mass gathering the day before. Truly inspired. 

To prove that, sadly, British people can’t deal with nuance, we had our newest three word slogan unleashed on us this week: ‘Hands, Face, Space.’ Wash your hands, cover your face, and maintain space. I think it’s rather good and this one will run for a while.

I also think it shows all the potential for being put to a lively dance beat like the great Greg Wallis Buttery Biscuit Base [AKA Masterchef Synesthesia’s by Swedemason].

Maybe if it’s catchy enough, it will distract the Facebook warriors long enough for them to forget that they have been confused by rules they are perfectly capable of explaining…

[Editor’s note: Since Ian’s article was written, Kritikal Mass have released a mix of ‘Hands, Face, Space’ by Joris Bohnson over on YouTube.]

Image by Iulian Ursache from Pixabay.

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