I’M really looking forward to the day when I can write this column and talk about the Covid-19 pandemic in the past tense – as something that is firmly behind us.

We will get there, but we still have a way to go.

You won’t have failed to notice that I had to announce some tougher restrictions last week. These would be in place for the next couple of weeks. I know this is frustrating – for all of us – so I want to talk about these new measures a bit today, and make clear why I am still optimistic that we will get through this.

The reason we have had to act swiftly is that there is now irrefutable evidence that the pandemic is accelerating. Across the UK and across Europe, cities and countries are having to introduce further, targeted restrictions in order to prevent the virus spreading out of control.

The statistics for Scotland make pretty stark reading. Although we’re not anywhere near the levels of infection seen back in March at the peak, the number of confirmed cases is steadily rising, hospital admissions are rising and sadly the daily death toll is rising.

If we add to that the number of people believed to be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, who won’t have come forward for testing, it’s estimated that the overall number of new infections is increasing at around 7% per day.

Glasgow Times: Some worry Glasgow will return to the days of the strictest lockdown Some worry Glasgow will return to the days of the strictest lockdown

On that trend, if we don’t act now we could be back at those March levels by the end of October.

None of us wants to see another lockdown like we had to introduce in March, so it is far better to take swift, targeted action now. By waiting a few weeks, we’d potentially need to introduce far tougher – and longer-lasting – measures later.

And that’s what these new measures aim to avoid. Among other things, until Sunday, October 25, we’ve asked licensed premises to close, with the exception of takeaway services and cafes; we’ve asked snooker and pool halls, indoor bowling, casinos and bingo halls to close; we’ve asked gyms to stop offering group exercise classes.

Taken together with the tighter restrictions on household visits introduced a couple of weeks ago, this will reduce the opportunities for the virus to spread, at a very crucial moment.

None of this was easy. We know these actions will save lives – but we also know they will cause harm to businesses.

We have developed a funding plan which will help protect jobs during this fortnight and I encourage business owners to apply for support.

We are also committed to helping businesses meet their contribution to furlough costs, where staff have to be re-furloughed, and are urgently identifying a mechanism to deliver that.

And we are pushing the Chancellor to do more, because most of the key levers to support businesses remain reserved to the UK Government.

I fully understand why many of you are feeling fatigued by all of this. Frankly I would be surprised if you weren’t. I am too.

But we should try to take comfort from the fact that the sacrifices we all made over the past few months were effective. There is no doubt about that. But we cannot let our guard down.

People have asked me why, going forward, we don’t just ask the most at-risk in society to shield themselves and the rest of us can just go about our lives as normal.

That approach may seem superficially attractive – but if you think about it practically, it’s simply impossible to completely syphon off one section of society away from everyone else for an indeterminate period.

Nor can younger, healthier people be sure that they will not become seriously ill from the virus (just ask those who have been suffering for months with the effects of what has become known as “Long Covid”), or even die.

Put simply, having more infected people out in our communities is more dangerous for all of us. The best way to get back to a sustainable kind of normality – and the best way to help our economy recover – is to eliminate the virus.

Glasgow Times: One day I hope to write this column in the past tense One day I hope to write this column in the past tense

And that requires all of us – without exception – to be following the rules as strictly as we can be.

It is tempting to think that bending the rules a little, just once, might not be an issue.

But if lots of people bend the rules a little, then it adds up to a lot.

As I said in my last column, I’ve been bowled over by how well the country has coped with what has been an incredibly difficult situation. It has been a learning curve for all of us. The government has certainly learned lessons when we haven’t got things right. Scientists have learned more about the virus. And individuals and communities have learned how to support themselves and each other in highly unusual circumstances.

All of that makes us better equipped for the weeks and months ahead. And while I know it is tough, it makes me more convinced that we will get through it.