FIRST of all, a Happy New Year to you all.

Now the second successive year we’ve entered overshadowed by the tragedy and frustration of living with the global pandemic, it’s understandable that our good humour and optimism may have suffered a blow.

Glasgow’s social and economic wellbeing, and our physical and mental health, continue to pay a heavy price for this unforgiving and unpredictable virus.

I have heard so many personal stories over the past fortnight of the impact that Omicron and isolation had for families and individuals over the Festive period. It has been a difficult end and beginning of the year.

A monument to the victims of Covid is being progressed by the Glasgow Times’ sister paper The Herald at a site in Pollok Park that the Council was glad to provide and once this is constructed, it will be a fitting memorial to all those who have paid the ultimate price to this pandemic.

But it will also serve as a reminder of the sacrifices this great city has had to make during this turbulent chapter in our history.

Earlier this week, the First Minister spoke of the need to learn to live with the virus. That’s clearly the direction we’re heading in.

The emergence of the Delta variant in the first half of 2021 and then the relentless spread of Omicron last month put the brakes on much-hoped-for returns to something approaching normality. 

Covid and its various strains and mutations clearly won’t be eliminated any time soon.

The uptake of vaccinations and booster jags, the willingness to regularly test and the adherence to the latest restrictions are credits to Glaswegians.

Along with some adjustments to our every-day behaviour, the vaccine and testing remain our best sources of protection from the virus and its effects.

Time will tell what living with Covid looks and feels like in our everyday lives and for our economy. Again, the Omicron spread resulted in hospitality, retail and the events industry suffering disproportionately over the festive period.

How ordinary citizens adapt to longer-term life with Covid may have a prolonged impact on these sectors and others such as public transport, as well as on how and where we work.

The Scottish Government is currently drawing up plans for how we all might adapt in the medium and longer-term to mitigate the harm caused by Covid without the need for restrictions and generally make living with the virus more manageable.

The plan is due to be published within the next few weeks and I’m sure it will be relevant to all our lives.

Right now, council staff are working round the clock to ensure that businesses that continue to suffer receive their share of the tens of millions of Scottish Government support allocated to the city.

Of course, after almost two years of the emergency footing Covid has thrust us on, it’s inevitable that there will be an impact on the delivery of some of the services provided by local government and the NHS.

To cite just a couple of recent examples. Glasgow Times readers may have seen the appeal that our colleagues in the Health and Social Care Partnership made over the festive period for volunteers to assist in care homes.

That workforce had been severely impacted by isolation rules and staff with relevant skills were asked to come forward and help out.

(It’s notable that the Scottish Parliament has been informed of the expectation that the care sector across the country will be faced with difficult choices in the weeks ahead due to Covid absences.)

Also, due to the spread of the virus within cleansing teams, the Council was forced to suspend bulk uplifts to concentrate on household waste and recycling collections.

The impact of the absences within the service, combined with the usual difficulties of the Christmas collections backlog, is something we’re very aware of.

I apologise to anyone who has not received the cleansing service they expect in recent weeks.

At the time of writing, the First Minister has just provided her update to Parliament and given us grounds for some “cautious optimism”, with the rate of infections slowing due to the positive impact of the measures put in place before Christmas.

Of course, the announcement about removing the 500 capacity for outdoor live events has grabbed the headlines.

I know how important football is to many people in this city, and indeed the whole of Scotland, for the social aspect, the wellbeing of supporters and for its economic impact.

Fans across the country will no doubt be relieved that they can begin to attend games in significant numbers from Monday.

And with the annual spectacle of the Six Nations on the horizon, rugby fans will similarly be able to pack out Murrayfield next month.

But there are other significant elements within the statement. The announcement of an additional £5m to improve ventilation in schools and nurseries will be welcomed by pupils and staff.  

And if we continue the rate of progress there’s every hope that further restrictions will be lifted in under a fortnight, including on indoor live events, table service in hospitality and distancing in indoor public places.

We’ve had a glimpse from the First Minister on Tuesday of what equipping ourselves to adapt to this changed world might look like.

There will likely still be a necessary trade-off between personal responsibility, adjustments to our behaviour, and businesses and organisations putting in place required measures on the one side with being able to enjoy our freedoms and the step-by-step recovery of our economy on the other.

The First Minister made clear the critical role of vaccinations and boosters in managing the virus and the potential for the scope of vaccine passports to be extended.  

If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s the short shelf life of predictions. But with the necessary protections and continuing to take responsibility for our own actions, we may now be finding our pathway to living with Covid.