It comes from a season finale of the American sitcom Happy Days where Fonzie is water-skiing and jumps over a rubbery-looking shark by way of a ramp.
It was so bad, it’s credited with the demise of the show and has made it into the popular vernacular to describe something that has reached beyond the limit of public patience or believability.
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak jumped the shark this weekend after the UK government announced they were to take part in a new trial that would see them avoid the need for self-isolation.
The revelation that the UK’s new Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, tested positive for Covid-19 last week prompted every journalist in the country to look at his work diary in anticipation of who would be picked up by the contact tracers.
Unsurprisingly, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor were near the top of that list. But then suddenly we, the public, were made aware of an experimental trial that dispenses with ten days of isolation in favour of daily testing.
Miraculously, both the PM and the Chancellor had been selected for this trial and would not be isolating. Oh really? They must think we button up the back.
When Dominic Cummings tested his eyesight with a 60-mile car journey to Barnard Castle, the government was put on notice. As were the SNP when Margaret Ferrier went on her 600-mile Covid trip.
The public would not accept one rule for them and another for those making the rules. In some ways, the Cummings matter was put to bed with his acrimonious (and heavily stage managed) departure from Number 10. But this incredibly convenient (and previously top secret) clinical trial didn’t go down well with the general public.
For a start, the issue of up to ten days of isolation for anyone contacted by contact tracers or pinged by the app, regardless of whether you are fully vaccinated or subsequently test negative, has become one of the most vexatious public health measures that people have to deal with.
On any given day in the UK right now, either you or someone you know will be isolating due to contact with somebody with Covid. It’s cancelled holidays, it’s postponed weddings and it’s caused hospitals to issue a ‘code black’ due to staff shortages.
I’m sure the public would be up for a daily testing scheme that could end the enforced period of isolation, so why were we only hearing about this when it benefited those at the top of government?
Public adherence to Covid regulations is hanging by a thread. With most people double jabbed, it’s getting harder to get people to take it all seriously, particularly if they have to cancel plans and shut themselves in during one of the warmest summers we’ve had in recent times. Watching the most powerful people in the land try to escape that isolation might have been the last straw for some.
This virus is still real and still deadly. It is not under control and may never be fully contained. So if we have to live around it, we need a set of rules that everybody follows.
Alex Cole-Hamilton is Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western