As we approach Christmas, our government's revised COVID-19 guidelines have developed dizzying levels of maze-like complexity. It's like we are all characters in a nightmarish novel by Franz Kafka - running along corridors, pushing open doors, scaling staircases, turning hither and thither. You don't know where you are.
To begin with you effectively have five governments that in most respects have not often worked together throughout the pandemic. There's the overall governance of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to contend with, then there are the devolved governments of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and finally there's the government of England which usually melds with the first.
On Wednesday, England finishes what has more or less been a four week lockdown - though schools and the majority of workplaces have been open this time round. Next we will be entering a newly edited tiering regime. Sheffield will be in the harshest tier - Tier 3 even though our infection rate has been dropping significantly. Rural Lincolnshire will also be in Tier 3 because of high infection rates in towns like Grimsby and Scunthorpe even though huge swathes of what is England's second largest county have very low infection rates. Much lower than London which is in Tier 2.
Last week our isolating prime minister attempted to explain the new guidelines via video link having put himself in a compromising position through foolishly hosting a breakfast meeting with selected members of parliament. One of them had coronavirus symptoms. They were photographed without masks on.
By the way, when I refer to official guidelines I should point out that they are in fact a mixture of laws, rules and advice. Sometimes it is impossible to differentiate. Expert commentators and politicians keep appearing on TV offering clarifications that only add to the complexities of the tangled web.
And in the middle of the dire warnings of pandemic wipeout with associated pub and restaurant closures what does the Johnson government do? They announce that the figurative tourniquet of guidelines will be relaxed for five days over Christmas! Up to three households may come together and people can travel freely between the tiered zones. We all know that this relaxation will lead to a big rise in infection rates in January with plenty of extra deaths. What the?
My daughter Frances is especially anxious to avoid coronavirus because her baby is due in the first week of January. You can imagine how different the birthing arrangements in hospital must be for women with coronavirus symptoms. Her husband Stewart would not even be allowed in the delivery room. Interestingly, government guidelines do not refer to expectant mothers and the vital importance of shielding.
None of it is straightforward. Kafka wrote "The Castle" in 1922. If he were still alive today, he might be scribbling away at a new novel loosely based on this disunited country's official handling of COVID-19. Possible titles might be "The Virus" or "Piss Up in a Brewery".