English COVID Rules Have Changed 64 Times Since March, Barrister Says

A human rights lawyer barrister has calculated that lockdown rules in the UK have changed 64 times since the first guidance was introduce in March

According to Adam Wagner of Doughty Street Chambers in London, when all the different national and local restrictions are taken into account, including guidance on face coverings, travel and quarantine periods, the government has passed a new COVID-related regulation into law on average every four and a half days.

Wagner pointed out that whereas the initial lockdown guidance published in the spring could be contained in a 12 page pdf, current restrictions are detailed over 108-pages, totalling some 50,000 words.

Most people living in the UK during the past year would probably agree that it’s been tough at times to know exactly what is and isn’t allowed under the various different restrictions that have been in place. Add to that the wild variations in rules depending on where in the country you live, and it makes you wonder how anyone is able to keep up.

And this confusion hasn’t just been limited to members of the public. Wagner has warned that as restrictions have become increasingly complex, police, lawyers and even government officials have often given out the wrong guidance, with many of the restrictions – such as those relating to exercise and reasons for traveling – being effectively unenforceable.

The problem is that the police rely upon the same media reports we see. They are not going to read all of this legislation.

But they are out and about and make decisions on the fly. They have to make decisions while on patrol. No wonder mistakes are made.

This week has seen a number of incidents demonstrating the difficulty and confusion surrounding current lockdown guidelines.

Last week, two women were fined by police after traveling to exercise five miles from their home, whereas government officials defended Boris Johnson after he was spotted cycling in the Olympic Park in Stratford, East London, some seven miles from his official home in 10 Downing Street, Westminster.

During a press conference held in Downing Street yesterday, January 12, home secretary Priti Patel told reporters that ‘when we have people dying…we will have to exercise our judgments as to how to act’.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson added that the government was ‘committed to ensuring the guidance is clear and accessible to all’.