LIVES have been put at risk by the alarming spike in positive coronavirus cases that prompted First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to introduce a series of tough new restrictions yesterday.

But the Covid-19 pandemic is also putting a serious strain on the mental wellbeing of a concerned population as well.

Not being able to go about their daily lives as normal, to visit loved ones especially, for the past seven months has taken its toll on both young and old alike around the country.

Stephen Robinson, the Motherwell manager, has witnessed first hand the impact the outbreak has had on his own family in that regard since March.

He believes Scottish football has played an important role in raising the morale of the nation since it restarted at the beginning of last month and has expressed hope that games are allowed to continue behind closed doors going forward for that reason.

"If we are talking about going into another lockdown or semi-lockdown, football is the one thing in the community that keeps everyone going mentally,” said Robinson.

"The mental health side of things is absolute huge. My mum's on the phone worried that she'll not get to see anyone for the next two months. Things like that and not being allowed out of your own postcode at the moment are a worry for people.

"There is a real mental health issue too and I think football is the one thing that keeps people going. It gives them a purpose. It gives everyone a goal in the community to keep positive."

The Scottish government requested that two Aberdeen and Celtic games were postponed last month after it emerged the Pittodrie and Parkhead clubs’ players had broken strict coronavirus safety protocols.

And Holyrood warned they would have no hesitation in shutting down the sport again if there were any further breaches of regulations.

But Robinson believes that Premiership clubs have dealt with the Covid-19 protocols introduced by the SFA and SPFL Joint Response Group brilliantly and sees no reason to take that drastic action despite the rise in positive test results.

"I've no doubt that Scottish football has coped very well,” he said. “We've had our lapses and people have made mistakes, but they are young people and they do make mistakes at times. They've learned their lessons from that.

"As a whole, Scottish football is an example to everyone. Our testing regime is above and beyond what anyone else is doing and I include the NHS in that. Frontline workers aren't getting tested as often as our footballers are.

"The protocols we adhere to around the club - the players don't sit together with the two metres distancing, the checks and the tests - are stringent.

“We are simply doing a lot more than the rest of society to keep going and something else has to be taken into consideration because football is a huge part of people's lives.”

Despite his endorsement of how Motherwell and their top flight rivals are dealing with the crisis, Robinson admitted he lives in constant dread of somebody at Fir Park contracting the virus.

"I just think we are going to have to live with this now,” he said. “We live in a bubble, but our players don't live in a hotel, they go home to their family. People go to work and there is obviously a risk.

"Every time I get tested I am scared stiff. We cover every protocol and we do that at every game, but when they go back to their families, if they were to touch something and somebody touches the same surface they can get it.

"There will be people who test positive and we have to live with that. No matter what we do, people will test positive, that's just the nature of this virus and we are no different from anyone else."

Motherwell will take on Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the third qualifying round of the Europa League in Israel – where a three week lockdown has been reintroduced nationwide due to a steep surge in positive Covid-19 cases - tomorrow night.

Robinson, whose side beat Coleraine in Northern Ireland in the last round, is confident the trip will go smoothly due to the precautions that UEFA have insisted are in place in all of their club competitions.

“Wherever we are, whether the country is in lockdown, it doesn’t affect us,” he said. “We went to Belfast and we were only allowed in our bubble. We weren’t allowed to socialise with anybody else. We have a room on our own and the boys are allowed in there to mix and socialise. Outside of the football club, we aren’t allowed to mix.

“We are staying in single rooms and the protocols that are being followed have been fantastic. They make you feel safe and secure. I have no worries or concerns for my players at all.”

There is little prospect of fans being allowed in to stadiums any time soon despite successful test events at Pittodrie and the Global Energy Stadium earlier this month.

The First Minister stressed yesterday that the relaxation of guidelines scheduled to take place on October 5 is unlikely to happen.

Robinson knows that doing well in Europe this season will help Motherwell to balance their books.

"It's already brought money into the club,” he said. “Finishing third last season and going through two rounds has helped tremendously. The longer we can stay in the competition the more beneficial it is to the football club.

"Like every other football club, financially it's going to be massive to us. We don't have a big benefactor, we don't have someone pumping millions of pounds into the club and I think without the sales of James Scott and David Turnbull this year we would be in trouble.

"If you add that to the third place finish and the European run, that's what probably keeping the club going. We need fans back as soon as possible as does every other club in the league.

"No fans would be a bitter blow, but in the context of the world and what's going on there, we have to be governed by the First Minister and whatever decisions she makes."