Covid-19 confusion continues as Business Secretary Alok Sharma struggles on singing rules

Business Secretary Alok Sharma has declined to explain what the coronavirus rules are on singing, instead saying he refuses to answer "gotcha questions".

The senior minister, after being asked several times about the rules on singing, said "I'm not going to get into this gotcha territory at all, I'm very clear that people should look on the website, they will see what the rules are".

Asked why he would not explain the rule, Mr Sharma said: "I think people watching this will probably say 'this is a bit of a gotcha question', people have an enormous amount of common sense".

Mr Sharma's lack of clarity on the rule demonstrated how Covid-19 confusion is as rife in government as it is among the public.

On Tuesday the prime minister was forced to apologise after he got a question wrong on social restrictions in the North East.

When asked by reporters to clarify whether people could meet in a pub garden, an issue one of his ministers admitted she did not know, Boris Johnson said: "In the North East and other areas where extra-tight measures have been brought in, you should follow the guidance of local authorities but it is six in a home, six in hospitality but as I understand it, not six outside."

Mr Johnson later tweeted: "Apologies, I misspoke today.

"In the North East, new rules mean you cannot meet people from different households in social settings indoors, including in pubs, restaurants and your home.

"You should also avoid socialising with other households outside."

His mishap came after education minister Gillian Keegan admitted she did not know the details of new Covid rules coming into effect in the North East of England.

When asked to clarity the situation in the North East adding she was "sure" people in the affected areas could "find out the answer".

Pressed during an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on how people are meant to keep up to date with the latest restrictions when ministers cannot, she said: “I’m sorry I can’t answer that question. I’m sure there are many people who could. I don’t represent the North East.”

Business Secretary Sharma repeatedly branded ITV News queries "gotcha questions", suggesting that ministers should not be expected to know the fine details of the varying restrictions around the country.

The rule on singing in the North East is "that customers do not sing in non-household groups, or dance" while in hospitality venues.

Education minister Gillian Keegan was unable to clarify whether households could mix in pub and restaurant gardens under new regulations. Credit: ITV News

Earlier Mr Sharma said news interviews should not be used as a "quiz show" but Labour said it was an issue of "basic Government competence" to know the rules put in place by ministers.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Sharma said: "There is an element of slightly 'gotcha' about this in terms of this line of questioning. You are a flagship programme when it comes to serious news and it is not a quiz show."

Asked whether he thought that calling on ministers to explain what their coronavirus regulations were was as "trivial as a quiz question", he said: "No, absolutely not.

"But what I'm saying to you is that what is important is if people want to understand the precise restrictions that they have in areas which are more restricted, then they should go on to the (Government and council) websites. "