When it comes to lifting Covid restrictions, the goalposts move so fast and so frequently that they must be on automated wheels.
It happens every time we're on the verge of reclaiming our democratic rights and freedoms.
What is going on here?
How did we get from just a few weeks of lockdown, to protect the NHS, to this point, one year later, when we remain mired in authoritarian restrictions with no clear end in sight?
The cavalry that Boris Johnson promised arrived months ago. The vaccines are highly effective and have been swiftly administered.
Cases, deaths and hospitalisations have fallen dramatically from the winter peak.
Yet here we still are.
There is always a reason given, such as the possibility of new variants, for refusing to unlock more than a fraction. The trouble is, there will always be another reason, until we learn to live with the virus.
Before schools reopened there were warnings of imminent disaster. Professor John Edmunds, a prominent member of Sage, the government advisory body, said that allowing pupils to return could push the 'R' number as high as 1.5.
But it never happened. Prof Edmunds' dire prediction, like those made by so many others, simply failed to come true.
Likewise in the US, when Texas reopened, leading media outlets described the decision as "head-scratching anti-science", and a "bold plan to kill another 500,000 Americans". President Joe Biden himself called it "Neanderthal thinking".
Several weeks later, it seems that those stupid old Neanderthals have called it correctly. Cases, hospitalisations and death rates have fallen rapidly in Texas, and there is an unprecedented number of people getting vaccinated.
So how can such excessive caution be justified by our own leaders?
Last month, Boris Johnson publicly ruled out a Zero Covid elimination strategy. That was a big relief to many of us.
In my view, Zero Covid is a dangerous experiment with incalculable costs to society and individual lives, possibly only achievable by a totalitarian state. We'd be sealed off forever, hopelessly trying to defeat a virus that's become endemic.
But since Johnson's statement, the inexplicable foot-dragging we've seen is starting to look alarmingly like a Zero Covid policy in all but name.
Downing Street's latest bugbear is the third wave in Europe. Yet much of that surge is driven by the B117 variant, which came from Britain in the first place.
Both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines are effective against the B117 variant, and 90% of the most vulnerable people in the UK have received those vaccines.
But as we know, there's always a reason not to unlock.
Here in Northern Ireland, we are seeing a similar reluctance to open up, despite real-life data providing a very positive picture. Why might that be? I wonder.
Last week, it emerged that in November 2020, a Green Party MLA, Rachel Woods, posed a written question to the Minister for the Economy, Diane Dodds, enquiring about the impact of a Zero Covid strategy on the economy.
Back came this extraordinary reply, dated 19 January 2021: "A zero COVID-19 society is the optimum outcome that the Executive has been actively pursuing since the outbreak of Coronavirus in Northern Ireland in February 2020 … and now through the NI COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, there is genuine hope that this can be achieved.
However, it will require a continuous and collective effort, right across our entire society, including of course, from Executive Ministers and other political and civic leaders to deliver this outcome."
So are we still "actively pursuing" a Zero Covid strategy in Northern Ireland?
Is that why health minister Robin Swann has told us to forget holidays abroad this summer?
Is that why Michael McBride, NI's chief medical officer, spoke of restrictions continuing for the rest of this year, saying that it would be 2022 "before we see things a little more normal"?
Is that why the much-celebrated vaccines have not yet allowed us our freedom?
It is essential that the Executive is completely honest with the people of Northern Ireland. If it is following a Zero Covid plan, with all the terrible collateral damage that such an experiment could involve, then we need to know.
Proponents of the restrictions like to say that nobody is safe until everybody is safe. That sounds wonderfully warm and inclusive, but the statement is both trite and false. Children, for instance, have never been at serious risk from Covid. Neither are the vast majority of us.
If we wait until there is zero risk to anybody from Covid, then we'll be locked up until eternity.