Eamonn Holmes perhaps summed it up best when he recently asked on Twitter: "Are we in lockdown or not?"
He added: "If we are there's little evidence of it out there in terms of traffic, supermarkets, schools and people mingling... business as usual it seems except for businesses!"
The Belfast-born TV presenter is no stranger to posting controversial statements online, but this time he had few dissenters.
That is because what we have just gone through was not, as Stormont was at pains to point out, another lockdown.
But you could hardly call it a complete 'circuit breaker' either.
It was certainly a month-long hiatus from the so-called norm, during which the large retailers got richer, smaller independent businesses held their own and the hospitality and lifestyle sectors got hammered - yet again.
Arguably, no one prepared their businesses better for the ongoing threat of Covid-19 than pubs, restaurants, hotels, coffee shops, cafes, hairdressers, barbers and those in the wider health and beauty industry.
But they are the ones who have continually found themselves on the wrong side of the Executive's decision making - or vacillations, as the case may be.
Some have gone out of business already, others are holding on by their sanitised fingertips - but all are angry at once again being made scapegoats of this virus, as the political brinkmanship up at Stormont continues.
Hospitality chief Stephen Magorrian was reluctant to label pubs the victims of the piece.
"It's a pandemic, the figures weren't good so some action had to be taken," he said of the four-week stoppage that began on October 16.
"I get all of that. The chief medical officer was looking for six weeks, the Executive went with four.
"To be honest, we all expected to be shut for six weeks, and slow progress based on what we experienced the first time."
Lockdown initially came on March 28 when Prime Minister Boris Johnson told everyone they had to stay at home, although Northern Ireland began closing down from March 17.
Schools shut, parents became teachers... 'non essential' retail closed down, industry, transport and construction went on hold and the world of queues and social distancing began.
Women, younger workers and the low-paid were affected most in terms of jobs.
The economy - which, in Northern Ireland suffered a 75% drop and loss of more than £4bn - was, however, kickstarted in a blaze of optimism.
The feelgood factor was enhanced by the chancellor's heavily subsidised Eat Out to Help Out scheme which was designed to get people back 'out there' and thus help the beleaguered hospitality sector.
What could possibly go wrong?
Since then, the hokey-cokey-style decision-making on the hill has led to bizarre scenarios such as punters being permitted to enter 'wet pubs' for only a matter of days before the shutters came down again.
Mr Magorrian, managing director of the Horatio Group, described the last few weeks as a "nightmare".
"Firstly, we got no clear direction on reopening," he said.
"The idea of opening without serving alcohol is nonsense, and shows a complete lack of understanding of the business.
"For every £100 we take in, £60 of it is food and £40 is alcohol. If you take £40 away our turnover is down by 40%."
He continued: "Turnover is already down substantially because we've got social distancing in place, so for somebody to come up with the idea of letting us open without alcohol was, for me, just for the optics and that's extremely frustrating."
While publicans like Mr Magorrian stare at worrying balance sheets through their fingers, supermarkets and off licences - seen by many as the big lockdown winners - continue to thrive.
Shopping trolleys spilling over with alcohol have become a common sight, with the post-8pm curfew on sales regarded by many as a blunt tool for curbing household consumption.
"The locking down of the hospitality industry has succeeded only in pushing people towards house parties," said Mr Magorrian.
"For example I went to see a friend two Saturdays ago; he has a pub and is selling pints of beer through his off sales.
"And, just before the rugby started, an order came in for 20 pints of beer.
"Are you honestly telling me those 20 pints are going to a house for one man to sip?"
Perhaps that is a reminder that when people drink at home it is in an unregulated, uncontrolled atmosphere, unlike the comparably safer environs of a bar that has implemented a swathe of Covid-inspired safety measures.
The autumn circuit breaker is estimated to have cost the local economy something like £400m, with the biggest impact felt in food and accommodation.
Even the furlough scheme, which was a life raft in the spring, is now weighing the business down and in danger of pulling publicans like Mr Magorrian under.
"It has actually cost me over £100,000," he said. "That's because originally we were going to get a £1,000 bonus for every employee we kept on so we've incurred costs already based on the previous scheme. Now that bonus has been taken away.
"We've have to pay the employees' National Insurance and pension contributions plus holiday entitlement - that works out at over £30 a week for each full-time employee and that's another £3,000 I have to find every week - with no money coming in."
Another casualty of the circuit breaker is the lifestyle sector, with hairdressers and beauty therapists all told to close, while it's patently business as usual for other sectors, especially retail.
Barber Neal Toner, of JFH Social in Belfast and Newcastle, said his industry, like hospitality, is being victimised.
"It's easy for the government to close us because it looks like they're taking decisive action," he said.
"They're forever trying to send out messages that say 'this is a serious situation so we're taking decisive action'.
"It makes it appear like they're doing something positive to beat coronavirus because everyone uses a hairdresser. Even bald people need barbers to tidy up their necks."
Glen Wheeler, who owns and runs 28 Darling Street in Enniskillen with his wife, said it has been a tough year for the couple and their two young children.
"I think hospitality has borne the brunt of the pandemic," he said, adding that trading in 2020 has been "a nightmare".
"Businesses can't operate in a climate of uncertainty. As it stands, I don't know if I'm open this weekend or not," he said.
"Our politicians have massive decisions to make and I admit that I wouldn't want to be making them. We just want them to make a decision as soon as possible so that we can make plans. We need a good Christmas. There's so much at stake."
The restaurateur added: "A few days ago we were told the politicians wouldn't leave the hospitality industry dangling by a thread - and yet here we are. It's scary to think how things could go from here."
Therapist Nuala Wills, who owns BeeWell Health and Wellbeing, said she has really struggled with "the lack of clarity and communication".
"I feel that newly self- employed small businesses have been forgotten with little to no support or consideration for the business owners," she said.
"The impact on my business and my own anxiety would be more manageable if I had forewarning to plan and respond to changes. I am planning to open a new clinic on Friday and there is still uncertainty around being able to open."
The near four month period from March 23 until early June saw a raft of restrictions regulate personal freedoms like never before. That is a world away from what we have now: there may be mandatory face coverings but when did you last queue to get into a supermarket, or drive past an empty school in term time, or wander up a near deserted high street?
So different are the two regimes, it is no wonder the circuit breaker is being blamed for simply widening the gulf between the winners and losers of this relentless pandemic.