IN many ways, the past week has been one of the most difficult we’ve faced since the start of the Covid pandemic six months ago.

Whilst only a month ago we were enjoying the lifting of many lockdown restrictions, we are now faced with new measures that are necessary to prevent the virus spiralling out of control.

We know that, given the chance, Covid can and will spread rapidly throughout communities.

The new restrictions put in place last week, some of which have been in force in Glasgow for a few weeks, are necessary if we are to keep the virus under control and save lives, while avoiding another full scale lockdown.

And, be in no doubt, the rise in cases make it essential that we do take action now.
Our collective hard work over the past six months meant we suppressed the virus to very low levels, but as we enter winter and many lockdown restrictions have been lifted, cases are rising again.

For example in mid-July, we were recording an average of nine new cases every day. Over the weekend, we recorded more than 700 cases in a single day.

The R number is above one again, possibly as high as 1.6.

These numbers tell us that we have to act quickly and on a scale big enough to slow down the spread of the virus.

With a global pandemic of an infectious virus with as yet no vaccine, 100% normality is not possible for any country. So we have to choose our priorities.

Our key priority is to protect health and save lives, but there are others too.

We want to keep children and young people in school – it’s fundamental to their wellbeing and future life chances and we should do all we can to keep schools open.

We must ensure that the NHS is there for those who need it most, restarting as many paused NHS services as possible and making sure it’s fully equipped to face the increased pressures winter months bring. And we must do all we can to support our economy, keeping businesses trading as far as possible, and protecting people’s jobs and livelihoods.

Achieving these priorities mean we must make sacrifices and trade offs elsewhere. It is a fine balance and the restrictions are not easy for anyone.

In recent days, it’s been particularly hard for students starting at college or university.

For students starting first year especially, I really regret the effect this virus is having on what should be such an exciting time in their lives.

Nobody deserves to face tough restrictions, but it’s important to remember this won’t be forever.

However by acting substantially now, the hope is that all of these restrictions will be in place for a shorter period than they would be if we had waited longer to bring them in.

We have tried to achieve a balance.

Children can still play together outdoors.

Pubs, bars and restaurants can stay open until 10pm with table service, and whilst you can’t meet others in your own or someone else’s home, you can meet one other household in a regulated or outdoor setting such as a café, park or garden, provided there are no more than 6 of you.

These household restrictions are extremely important.

We know that a high proportion of new Covid cases are as a result of interactions between different households in homes.

Glasgow Times: I know it is difficult for students, like the ones in Murano Street I know it is difficult for students, like the ones in Murano Street

That is perhaps to be expected – it’s harder to physically distance in your own home and if one person in your household gets infected, it’s highly likely to affect others living there or visiting.

What we have learned from the restrictions put in place in Glasgow and elsewhere in the West of Scotland, is that household limits do have a positive effect.

Everything we do now matters – we do not want to go back to the lockdown we saw in March.

If we get virus rates down again – like we did over the summer – we can avoid tougher restrictions on our lives. We each have a responsibility to do all we can to avoid that.

That means abiding by the rules – even though these restrictions take an emotional toll.

Not seeing others in your home, and not visiting friends or family is 
hard.

But in other ways what we need to do is go back to basics – we must follow the hygiene guidance of washing hands regularly, cleaning hard surfaces, wearing face coverings and keeping a two-metre distance from people outwith our households – simple things which can make the world of difference in stopping the spread of the virus.

We all need to be mindful of the symptoms too – a dry cough, fever and loss of taste or smell – and self-isolate and book a test through Test & Protect if we experience any of them.

I am sorry to ask so much more after many months of sacrifices.

I know it can feel disheartening, but together if we make the right choices we can get the virus back down to the low levels we saw very recently.

We will get through this – let’s stick with it.