I’M not sure if I feel at home in this world anymore. The Covid World is a dead world. The simplest of things, like human touch, feel forbidden and dirty.

I’ve a habit that’s hung around since childhood. When I walk, I like to run my fingers along railings that I pass. I like the sound – the plink, dink, thunk – of my fingertips on wood or iron. And I like the feel, the way it makes my hand shudder. I like what it reminds me of – being an unfettered child, free, thoughtless, exploring the world without responsibilities or worries.

If I unthinkingly run my fingers along railings today, I immediately pull my hand back. I’ve touched something unclean, something others have touched. I’ll have to wash my hands when I get home. My hand feels alien and tainted at the end of my arm, like a foreign body.

It’s a tiny, private joy that’s now lost.

There’s much bigger, more painful losses – ones we all share. Like missing our children. My daughter left home to move into her first flat just weeks before the pandemic. Since then we’ve stayed in touch through the sterility of Skype. My wife and I have left presents for her on her doorstep and waved to her through her window. She’s done the same for us.

The first time I looked at her through a window, and waved and blew a kiss, and then walked away, I got to the end of her street and cried so hard I thought my chest would break open.

It felt so cruel, so inhuman. My child was in front of me and I couldn’t hug her or kiss her or put my arm around her.

When lockdown eased at the end of last month, the first plan we all made was to meet – to physically spend time together. We had to keep our distance but we could enjoy a day with one another in the garden – six feet of brutal empty space between us, two metres of cold, dead air.

She arrived, but I couldn’t bear to be with her and yet unable to embrace her or kiss her. Nor could my wife. Nor could our daughter. It was like an invisible physical wall between us. For a few minutes, we hovered around each other, like bashful infants. The inability to touch, to hug, deadened everything – muting how we spoke, how we looked at each other. It made love feel less.

Then – and I don’t know who acted first – we stepped together and hugged each other. We all kissed, we embraced. And we came back to life. We became the people we’d always been with each other – easy, happy, loving, gentle.

So we broke the little rule, but we felt like human beings. Fool that I am, I still feel guilty for it. There’s people breaking lockdown everywhere you look – but I still can’t help but worry that our little family unit’s need to show and express love for each other might endanger one of us, or someone else. In truth though, I’d rather not exist than live a life where my humanity has been stripped from me.

Even the things we’re allowed to do are robbed of all humanity – by necessity, I know; for our own good, I know. Like shopping in a mask. I don’t feel like a person in a mask. If you’re in a mask I can’t see the look on your face. Humans have spent 250,000 years reading the micro-expressions on each other’s faces. Without them, we’re less than human.

I’ve tried masks twice, and much as I want to abide by the rules as best as I can to protect others, I can’t do that anymore. It’s hateful to me. I feel like I’m an automaton, not the messy, flawed, contradictory creature that’s a human being.

I’ve been dreaming of a return to that wonderfully flawed, messy human world. Where you can pat your pal on the arm if they’re feeling down, or kiss an old friend on the cheek at a party.

We just need to hunker down for a while longer, I tell myself, and then we’ll get back to some sort of normality. But I know I’m kidding myself. Lockdown is a joke now, there’ll be a second spike. More people will die and we’ll be back to strictest regulations.

Even if we do manage to get the virus under some sort of control, life will remain stripped of its humanity. There was a report the other day which made my heart sink five fathoms in my chest.

There’s a new office block planned for Glasgow – it’ll be the city’s biggest. When it opens it will reflect the “post-Covid-19 reality of working life”. Staff will be able to enter the building and work in it and then leave it without touching a single thing any other person has touched. Apps on your phone will operate lifts, lighting will be touchless. I guess the only thing you’ll touch will be in your hermetic workstation.

I get the reasons why. Employers must protect staff. But we’re going to become something less than fully human in this new dead world we’re creating.

There’s a long, hot summer coming. The rightful anger and protest we’ve seen over racial injustice will not go away. The hate that breeds on social media gets worse by the day. Britain’s economy is set to be the hardest hit among developed nations by coronavirus. Mass unemployment is approaching us like a bullet train. People are going to go to the wall. This country is going to be wrecked. We know it. It’s just we’re not brave enough to admit it to ourselves yet.

Could such a recipe for unrest come at worst time? When the most precious – but also most subtle – parts of our humanity have been pared back and eroded. Many people need an arm put around them – but we can’t do that now. They’re angry, they’re fearful. They need the human touch to set them right, and there’s nobody to give them that.

By the end of this year, we may find that as a society we will need to put our arms around each other more, no matter what the rules say.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.