FOR viewers of a certain vintage, television on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings followed a regular pattern. After the sports results on Saturday came dinner, some Generation Game-style family viewing, maybe a film, and off to bed. On Sundays it was repeats, cartoons, undemanding drama.

Weekends were about relaxation, switching on to switch off.

Today, viewers have to steel themselves before wielding the remote control lest they are greeted by the sight of a Prime Minister at a podium. As a general rule, no good news ever came from these events.

So it was on Saturday, with Boris Johnson announcing the reintroduction of some restrictions in England following the discovery of the Omicron variant.

If Saturday was about getting the headlines right, the Sunday politics shows were for adding detail. Hence the reappearance of Sajid Javid, England’s Health Secretary, for the second week in a row. Was it only seven days ago that the same Minister was in the same place talking about high speed rail links? Oh, happier days.

Therein lay the problem for government, one that became apparent as Sunday wore on. How could they sound the alarm about this new variant without seeming alarmist? How could they march a weary public up the hill one more time when it would be weeks before the full facts about Omicron were known?

Andrew Marr called it, correctly, a “jittery morning”. His show had set up shop in Glasgow again and, fittingly, Scottish journalists – Helen McArdle, The Herald’s health editor, and Catherine Salmond, the editor of Scotland on Sunday – had been invited to review the papers. Forgive the bias, but McArdle was a perfect choice. On a day when steady, well-informed commentary was essential, she told viewers what was known about Omicron and, just as importantly, what was yet to be established.

Marr had not wasted a minute of the morning, previously interviewing the South African doctor who first spotted the variant (and said the symptoms thus far had been mild), and the medical director of Moderna, about when a new booster might be expected (early 2022).

Otherwise, it was left to politicians to get the message across, but which message? Mr Javid’s first stop was Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday.

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Phillips wondered if the public would comply with reimposed rules, and he had a good statistic to illustrate his case. Of all the millions of London Underground journeys in the last few months, only 108 people had been removed from trains and stations for not wearing masks.

The Minister stuck to the line that the government’s response was “proportionate and balanced”, though he did go slightly overboard when asked if Christmas was safe. “It’s going to be a great Christmas,” he declared.

Marr’s closing interview was with Scotland’s First Minister. Any other week the focus might have been on the party’s conference that weekend, and the predictable pressure on Nicola Sturgeon to name the date for another independence referendum.

Marr asked about indyref2 and whether the new variant would lead to a further delay in holding it. “I don’t know the answer to that question right now,” said Ms Sturgeon. The same applied to closing the border with England and reintroducing other restrictions, such as stopping gatherings indoors. Ms Sturgeon was not for budging when it came to leaving options open.

She is due to give her leader’s speech to the party today. Those hoping for firmer answers, particularly on a date for indyref2, look likely to be disappointed.

“If I stood up in front of my party and told them that I, alone in the world, could see when this Covid pandemic was going to end, then people would look at me a bit askance. I’m a politician but I’m a politician who tries to be as straight as I can with people,” she said.

The previous day, John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, had launched a furious attack on the UK government in his speech. But there was no such anger from the First Minister, or from the party’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, interviewed later by Martin Geissler on The Sunday Show. It was a day to be diplomatic.

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Geissler started the show by saying what a horrible morning it was outside. Yet as we had seen through the windows during Marr, the city was bathed in sunshine. The blizzard Geissler had driven through was gone. Stormy weather, warnings of what may lie ahead, followed by relief when everything turns out okay. As a metaphor for the arrival of Omicron it would do.