THE decision to place Glasgow within the toughest tier of restrictions to halt spread of Covid-19 is the crushing news we had hoped our city could have avoided. 

The move into Level Four had been widely anticipated, particularly given that warnings in recent days had indicated it was increasingly likely. 

But that doesn’t take away that sense of disappointment and despair that ordinary Glaswegians and city businesses will feel. 

Coronavirus Scotland: The best comments as Glasgow reacts to level four covid 'lockdown'

On a personal level, three weeks of additional curbs on how and where I can meet my parents, relatives and friends is genuinely gutting. But I know that for many residents and employers this is beyond difficult. It is not the outcome I wanted or argued for. But I understand fully why that decision had to be taken.  

The context in which Glasgow and 10 other local authority areas enter Level Four is stark and grim. 

Despite some stabilisation, the rates of infection within our communities continue to be worryingly high. The consequences of Glasgow having a higher rate of infection than anywhere else in Scotland cannot be underestimated. 

Heading into the seasonal pressures which winter inevitably throws at the NHS, there are mounting concerns that this second Covid wave will create intolerable pressure for hospital and intensive care services. 

This week we expect to pass the milestone of 5000 Covid deaths in Scotland. Those figures, the real people and lives behind them, and the loved ones left behind are the sobering reasons behind this decision. We cannot put at risk the lives of thousands more.

In recent weeks our message to our citizens has been Fight 4 Glasgow. That remains our message – and our mission. 

I made clear to the Scottish Government in the build up to this decision that support for city businesses had to be made available to the stage when they can confidently reopen. 

Some will be impacted much more severely by the restrictions than others, so flexibility will be required.

I told ministers I believed an open-ended Level Four would increase the economic and social harm of the past eight months and risked creating major problems around compliance and enforcement. It is some comfort to know that we have an end date of December 11th.

We must hope that the short, sharp shock is gives us enough time to deliver a Christmas for families and for businesses.

And I expressed my concerns over the impact of further restrictions on our city centre, which is already suffering under tremendous strain from the effects of the pandemic.  

Glasgow Times: Our columnist understands why Nicola Sturgeon had to impose level four lockdown on Glasgow Our columnist understands why Nicola Sturgeon had to impose level four lockdown on Glasgow

Our city centre is home to 170,000 jobs, the largest concentration of jobs in the country.

Within that the hospitality sector supports 24,300 jobs, while retail supports a further 17,000. The success or otherwise of our city centre affects not just Glasgow but all of Scotland.

Glasgow Times readers may recall that in a recent column I discussed the need for a specific city centre task force to help address the challenges Covid has created for this vital economic, social and cultural asset. 

The City Centre Task Force has now commenced its work and the initial response to its establishment and purpose from the Scottish Government has been positive. 

In the days and weeks ahead I will continue to press for commitments from ministers on the work of the task force.

Since March the overwhelming majority of Glaswegians have made huge sacrifices to live within the rules. Similarly, our businesses have, by and large, been exemplary and taken their responsibilities extremely seriously. 

Already hard-pressed, they have taken on the additional burdens needed to keep customers safe, be that through track and trace systems, social distancing measures or enhanced hygiene practices.  

Coronavirus: Nicola Sturgeon confirms Glasgow put into level four covid lockdown from Friday

But the pandemic has taken a toll on all of us and, as the First Minister said, this decision to move us to Level Four will add to that burden. Now it is absolutely vital that we make sure that the effort we have made together is not wasted and we can see these restrictions for what we all hope they will be - the beginning of the end of a cruel and bitter chapter in our history. To again borrow the words of the First Minister, in the months ahead we want to be looking back at this episode not still looking through it.

That means a return to the efforts we all put in earlier in the year. With continuing promising news about the successful trial and planned rollout of vaccinations we have a clear and realisable prize worth fighting for. After the year we have had as a city, exiting Level Four with as little loss of life as possible and looking forward to a Christmas with fewer restrictions would be a welcome and treasured festive gift.

Level Four will be a struggle. Make no mistake. But it might be our best possible chance of restrictions being eased by Christmas and setting us on a path towards brighter and better times.