A ‘SLOW and painful death’.

That is the prediction from Oxford restaurateur Clinton Pugh today about what the Government’s Tier 2 lockdown of the city will mean for his industry.

He is certainly right about the slow and painful part, though we dearly hope he is wrong about the death part.

That is the great irony about these tiered restrictions – because they are so flimsy and unclear it seems entirely possible that they will do more damage to the livelihood of those people they purport to protect than to the coronavirus itself.

Take, for example, our story on page 3 today, which reveals how arbitrary the boundary of this new High Alert is: at one end of Botley Road you cannot meet people from outside your household indoors; at the other end you can for a meal with all your mates at McDonald’s.

Likewise, anyone who lives in Oxford who wants to go out for a meal with their friends could walk, drive or take a bus to a nearby town and do so: they would be breaking the rules, but they can - and will - do it.

The rules are so weak (and largely unenforceable), that the only people who will obey them are those who are naturally cautious and sensible citizens, who would have taken the utmost precautions in their daily lives anyway and been of the least risk in spreading the disease.

Conversely, those people who are most likely to spread the disease because of their disregard for the rules will continue to do so now, going to meet all their friends at McDonald's (other fast food outlets are available).

No, the people who will be worst-affected by these rules are the business owners in the city like Mr Pugh who don’t have the option to simply move their operation a mile down Botley Road.

None of this is to say that the restrictions in themselves are wrong, either in their ambition or their execution, but they will simply be ineffective.

Those who were already self-restricting all their usual activities will do so even more; those who were already ignoring the rules will do so just as much.