Polly Hudson: Victoria Derbyshire admission shows so much about where we are in virus fight

Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the Christmas trees.

Presenter Victoria Derbyshire has just apologised for revealing that she planned to violate ­coronavirus rules. In a recent interview, she said: “If the rule of six is still in place at Christmas, we’re breaking it to have the rule of seven. We just are.”

Victoria has now realised her mistake, but what’s more ­important here is that she said it in the first place.

A respected, upstanding person – the thinking nation’s sweetheart – being comfortable not just feeling this but openly announcing it, exposes so much about where we now are.

As do the first replies to ­Victoria’s mea culpa tweet: “You were only saying what everyone is thinking and doing. No one’s following any rules now”, and, “Yes we are actually and cavalier ­attitudes like yours put everyone at risk”.

We are a country divided – the rule followers and the rule breakers. We’re even divided about how restricting the restrictions should be, as evidenced by a poll on the letters page of ­yesterday’s paper.

Government ministers are considering cutting the ­quarantine period from 14 to seven days, so more people comply with it.

We asked you if isolation time should be halved, and the results were, somewhat astonishingly, perfectly equally split – 50 per cent no, 50 per cent yes. A resounding dunno.

What it seems to be coming down to is, should the rules follow the people, or should the people follow the rules? The answer to that surely has to be the latter. Even if we do all feel like fully qualified epidemiologists at this point, we aren’t.

Being on the same page gives us our best chance of controlling coronavirus. Everyone is capable of making a difference. Every action has a consequence. If we pull in opposing directions, no one moves an inch.

At one end of the spectrum are the extreme examples – the ­attention-grabbing protests, the angry rioting against lockdown in Europe – but, turns out, every little helps… Covid-19s.

The majority of ­non-compliance involves small infringements where people “stretch” the rules for their own convenience, says Professor Linda Bauld, a public health expert at the University of Edinburgh.

So far, so pre-apology Victoria Derbyshire. But the professor then explains: “The choices we make affect whether the virus spreads or not. Things like additional travel when it’s not advised, not wearing a face covering everywhere we’re supposed to, visiting friends indoors in areas where that is not advised, or adding more people to an indoor gathering.”

The restrictions, just like those who set them, are about as far from perfect as it is possible to be. But they’re all we’ve got. They aren’t just rules for rules’ sake – they are rules for survival. Our best hope. If we don’t follow them, we make it worse for everyone and ensure this goes on even longer.

Of course most of us want to be with our families for Christmas but if it turns out that we can’t be, I’m afraid we’ll need to accept that. No one has to grin, just bear it.

Otherwise, who knows, maybe we’ll be having this same conversation in 12 months time, about next Christmas. And no matter how divided we are, I’m pretty confident no one wants that.