'Extraordinary' DUP leader was not fronting press conference at such important moment
The announcement on Thursday evening was both stark and startling: a warning that Northern Ireland would face the most draconian restrictions of the entire pandemic crisis.
There will be a night-time curfew for at least one week; and I'm pretty sure that once it has been trialled it will, if deemed to have played a part in reducing the R number, be used again.
As ever, there was a lack of clarity, consistency and certainty (the three things that businesses in particular need most), meaning the airwaves pounded to the sound of people asking a variation of: "What does this mean; how long will it really last; is there a financial package; is it worth our while trying to open."
I accept that there are no rock-solid certainties when it comes to a crisis, especially one of the scale and impact of Covid, but it's that very scale that demands an epic response from the Executive. A response wrapped in collective responsibility and backed-up with ministerial colleagues supporting and promoting decisions rather than briefing against each other as soon as they leave the room.
And key to that collective responsibility and strength of messaging is the sight of the First and deputy First Ministers standing shoulder to shoulder, delivering a joint message directed at everyone in Northern Ireland. That may seem like a trite and obvious point to make, yet I make it because there have been too many occasions at joint press conferences when Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill seem to have been addressing different audiences.
There was no sign of Foster on Thursday evening. Maybe there was a specific reason for her absence (which will be made clear later), yet it still struck me as extraordinary that she wasn't fronting a press conference at such an important moment. Indeed, I was also surprised there was no official statement in the Assembly chamber, nor any formal media interview.
All of us - because all of us have, in various ways, been hit by the crisis - have had a tough year. A year of ups and downs; of stops and starts.
Hopes too often dashed by new setbacks and restrictions. There was a huge jolt of optimism a few weeks ago when news of a vaccine was announced.
We dared to hope that the worst was over and that something resembling normalcy was just around the corner. We even took the original news of the Christmas 'bubbles' on the chin because we believed there really were 'better times just around the corner'.
On Thursday, though, we learned that the post-Christmas restrictions would be tougher than anything which had gone before. Four definite weeks of almost total lockdown: maybe 6 weeks (depending on the R number), maybe a slow, staggered return beginning towards the end of February.
Image the sheer scale of the worry which greeted this news. Worry about paying bills. Worry about how many businesses would survive yet another hit. Worry about redundancies. Worry about our own mental health and the health of our loved ones.
And all of these worries rising as leak after leak emerged from within the Executive, yet with no sight of Foster and O'Neill - surrounded by their Executive colleagues - giving us the clarity and reasoning and, dare I say it, hope, we so desperately needed to hear at that moment.
I don't think any vaccine would ever cure the congenital disease of reducing everything to an us-and-them showdown.
Let's not forget that this lockdown won't be the same as earlier ones. This new one will be played out in the long, cold, wet, wintry days and nights of January and February.
There'll be no sanctuary in the garden, or escape to the beach or park for hours on end. This one could be very tough. Very, very tough, even on those who came through the earlier lockdowns reasonably unscathed.
Yet no Foster and O'Neill sitting beside each other and explaining what was happening.
At the time of writing - lunchtime on Friday - there still wasn't a full explanation of events and consequences on the Executive's own social media site.
Worryingly, especially for fellow parents of a child due to sit the Transfer test on January 9, there was nothing, absolutely nothing, about arrangements and Plan B options if those tests are again postponed or even cancelled.
Instead of joint responsibility we were treated - in an interview with RTE - to an accusation from Michelle O'Neill that the DUP had been undermining health strategy for months, adding that she still didn't think she had broken any regulations at the time of the Bobby Storey funeral.
She knows - there is no way she couldn't know - these comments would result in yet another very public DUP-SF bust-up. So prepare for flak from Wilson, Paisley and probably Poots; all of whom were very quiet on Thursday evening.
Foster did get around to commenting on Friday afternoon: "We are in a very bad place and it's a failure of society as a whole that we have had to introduce these restrictions in a draconian way."
She may have a point, but maybe the people who constitute that 'society as a whole' would have been more willing to heed Executive guidance had it come against a background of the Executive itself demonstrating unity of purpose and direction. Blaming the people is never the way to win over the people.
Christmas is supposed to be a time for hope and new opportunities; a time to reflect on personal responsibility and collective responses to the concerns and needs of others.
Sadly, yet predictably, we have an Executive which seems incapable of shifting itself from the shadow of the 'dreary steeples' and rising to the challenge of a pandemic which doesn't give a toss which foot you kick with or how you'd vote in a border poll.
Even sadder, I don't think any vaccine would ever cure the congenital disease of reducing everything to an us-and-them showdown.