Rejoice! We’re allowed to sunbathe. What a breath of fresh air after those long weeks when to expose your body to more sunlight than you’d get on a scurry to the shops was to court public disapproval, or worse, penal sanctions. Heavens, we can even sunbathe on the beach!

I’m agnostic on the subject of whether some news outlets contrived those crowded beach images we saw with the aid of telephoto lenses.

I do recognise that in any situation requiring prudent interpretation you can rely on a few jokers to take the Mick; in which event, fine the offenders and leave the rest of us in peace. I’ll simply note the lurking Presbyterian tendency to discourage activities that let people relax and have fun.

But considering that we have been stuck indoors for so long this year, we Scots should now be actively encouraged to get outside as much as possible.

Why? Our country’s northerly exposure and heavy cloud cover means that even under normal circumstances, we’re likely to have sub-optimal levels of vitamin D.

Last year Manchester University scientists calculated that Stirling, for instance, gets just 38% of the vitamin D-effective UVB rays enjoyed in the Spanish resort of Marbella.

People living in the south of England, they found, got around 28 more days each year when UV rays were high enough for our bodies to make a useful amount of this vitamin.

Why does that matter? Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium and phosphorus from food to keep bones, teeth and muscles strong and helps keep the immune system and heart healthy.

In 2008, international scientists, reporting in the Virology Journal, found that Vitamin D helps stop and mitigate the worst worst effects of viruses.

Since then scientists from the University of East Anglia have compared vitamin D levels and coronavirus rates in different European countries.

They found that low vitamin D was associated with increased risk of coronavirus infection and death. Researchers at Trinity College Dublin recently concluded that vitamin D may play a role in preventing respiratory infections, and help improve the health of “shielding” groups who are more at risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19. One factor in the preponderance of Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities in coronavirus deaths is that people with darker skins produce less vitamin D in the sun than those with paler ones.

But it’s not that easy to keep up your vitamin D level. There are only three ways to do it. The first, and runaway best, is exposure to sunlight. Second best, is eating vitamin D in food.

Third, trailing way behind in effectivity because of issues around absorption, is taking supplements.

The richest natural food sources for vitamin D are oily fish, such as sardines, mackerel, trout, fresh, not tinned, tuna, herring, pilchards, salmon and whitebait, closely followed by red meat, especially liver, and egg yolks.

So kippers or eggs for breakfast, smoked mackerel or liver paté for lunch, and red meat at night would be a menu designed to raise vitamin D levels.

The only non-animal, whole food source is mushrooms. They produce vitamin D2 when they are exposed to light. But vitamin D2 is thought to be less effective at raising vitamin D levels in our blood than D3, the form found in animal foods.

Some ultra processed foods, breakfast cereals for instance, trumpet that they are “fortified” with synthetic vitamins, including vitamin D.

This imbues them with a fake aura of health and distracts from the fact that most are loaded with sugar.

The Scottish Government still advises people to stay at home. “For most people, this will mean being indoors for much of the day and not getting enough vitamin D from sunshine” it says.

“Since it’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including children and pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.”

Is that mild recommendation enough to have any effect? Dr Malcolm Kendrick, a GP who visits many elderly patients in care homes, takes 4,000 international units of vitamin D3 a day, that’s 100 micrograms, and advises us to do the same.

For myself, I’m a belt-and-braces type. So it’s sun, foods naturally rich in D3, plus supplements for me.