I KNEW something was awry on Wednesday when my social media got weird. On a seemingly inane ‘it’s my birthday, I’m having cake’ post by my sister, someone had written ‘at least you can have a drink in a restaurant down south’.

The neighbourhood WhatsApp group started buzzing frantically with some people advocating moving to Sweden rather than face this madness, and then my favourite – on a post by me from the previous weekend standing in the empty splendour of a Highland beauty spot – a friend had written that she had postponed her travel plans (to Scotland) until: “Nicola Knox gets off her pulpit.”

The First Minister had gone to the place where Scottish politicians fear to tread: restrictions on our right to a wee swally is basically our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms moment. Like Knox, she came across as the ultimate preachy, party-pooper, but also like Knox she had been fearless in telling us how it is – that if the infection rate continued as it was going, we would be back at March rates by the end of this month. And surely no one wants that.

By Thursday it was full-blown Pandemic Prohibition” headlines and Youse Are All Barred shouting at us from the newsstand. We were not a happy nation.

It felt like a precious part of our culture was being attacked, the liberties we take for granted snatched away once again. Previously Covid-compliant citizens began to wobble, and that was before they’d had a drink.

The scientists tried their best to wave their evidence papers at us: as part of the Test and Protect interviews from the end of July until the beginning of this month, just over a quarter (26%) of positive respondents had reported having been to hospitality settings.

And those 1m zones in hospitality venues? Turns out they are actually quite risky – 1m distancing carries between 2 and 10 times the risk of 2m distancing.

Lastly, the scientists also told us something we all knew anyway, that after a few sherries, distance becomes no object at all, as disinhibition sets in. We’ve become a very huggy people. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it. We all have.

Recently, I found myself in a pub/restaurant where six of us sat around a table clearly designed for four. Our early doors caution which saw us pull our chairs away from the table to give us more breathing space, was soon replaced by full-on close contact chat. Fortunately, I did have the wherewithal to refuse the offer of "would you like to try a bit of my lobster."

Another factor is that the rules have become so multi-layered, splintered and confusing that even the big-brained National Clinical Director, Jason Leitch, can’t keep up with them, as he confided to us this week. Is visiting someone in your bubble indoors for a drink now trumped by the requirement to try not to travel outside of your health board? Previously, the Government referred to council areas in their pronouncements, now we are talking about health board areas. I mean, come on, after four pints of Guinness and a whisky chaser is a pub-goer going to be on top of all this?

And whilst the First Minister seems to be getting personally attacked for these apparent killjoy measures, we need to remember that Scotland is not alone. Belgium has tough new restrictions with all bars in Brussels closing for a month. In Dublin, pubs which don’t serve food have never reopened. In France to reduce the rising number of infections, bars have been closed in Paris for two weeks, and in Madrid opening hours have been cut.

UK Government ministers are finding it hard to deny that a similar ban won't be introduced to some northern English cities next week where the infection rates are at far higher levels than the central belt. Sturgeon will know her actions are not exactly popular, or a vote winner, the years-long battle to get minimum alcohol pricing onto the statute books will be a sore reminder of that but, like so many decisions around coronavirus, there’s no easy answer. In Sao Paulo, bars reopened in July but schools remain closed to this day. Time will tell if the impact on the city’s children will be felt in the longer run.

We need a bit of sober perspective. We can’t let the springtime nightmare of panic-buying, shielding those with illnesses, daily death tolls, Zoom calls with loved ones whilst aching to hold them, and clapping our frontline staff for their sacrifices become somehow less important than 16 days where we can’t visit the pub. It’s bad, but we’ve been through a lot worse.

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