As of Monday 14 September, ostensibly in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19, the number of people from multiple households who can gather together for social occasions, indoors or outdoors, has been reduced to six. There are however, exceptions to that which are explained here: England’s ‘rule of six’: the limits on socialising – and the exceptions. When you start to look at this in detail in a bid to search for some consistency and logic in how the rules and exceptions work, like us, you may well end up more than a bit baffled!

This piece looks takes a more detailed look at some of the organised sports and blood’sports’ that are exempt from the so called ‘rule of six’: Hunting in England exempt from ‘rule of six’ Covid-19 restrictions. A group of eight teenagers sitting in a park but quite possibly not having much physical contact with each other is in contravention of the restrictions and as such, potentially subject to police intervention. On the other hand, a game of rugby (league or union) which is very much a contact sport can go ahead without any problems. Baffled? We certainly are!

With these glaring contradictions which defy logic, how much compliance will there be with them? As we’ve stated before, that is a difficult one to predict. One indicator could well be the number of people willing to basically act as snitches by reporting any gatherings involving more than six people to the cops on a non-emergency number. The policing minister, Kit Malthouse, has urged people with ‘concerns’ about gatherings to report them to the police: Public should report ‘Rule of six-breakers’ to police, says minister.

You don’t need us to tell you how divisive an issue the COVID-19 crisis, lockdown and the uneasy easing into (and back out again?) the ‘new normal’ has been. It has split families, severely tested friendships and divided communities. These divisions have created a toxic climate where people aren’t quite sure who they can and can’t trust. In the midst of all of this, we now have a government minister inviting people to basically grass up other folk in their neighbourhood. If people start doing this, it will further undermine what in a growing number of areas, is an already fragile sense of social cohesion. Classic divide and rule tactics – get people fearing and not trusting each other so they have to turn to the authorities for what will ultimately be, a false sense of security.

One of our slogans is ‘Stop Believing In Authority, Start Believing In Each Other’. Now really has to be the time when people start to pull together and exercise whatever collective responsibility they can to get us through this shite. This will have to come with an understanding that in any neighbourhood, there are going to be differences of opinion on how to deal with COVID-19, the impact of lockdown and the uneasy stumbling towards the ‘new normal’. That means all of us listening to each others fears and concerns and trying as best we can to reach an understanding. A process that may well be helped by switching off from the news and taking a step back from social media.

The choice is stark. We either start to deal with and take ownership of the issues involved at a neighbourhood level and work out how we can support each other, regardless of our viewpoint. If that can be done, the snitchers whose actions only further the agenda of divide and rule can be isolated and their impact minimised. If we continue to allow ourselves to be divided, the snitchers will have a field day and our communities will become even more fractured and divided. The choice is ours…