TO be quite clear, this is neither surrender nor capitulation. No white flag. Our fortifications remain in place against this hideous plague; from hygiene to the hypodermic.

Equally, though, let us face facts. This week, on these islands, the all-out war against Covid-19 drew to a close, to be replaced by sporadic attrition and an uneasy peace.

That all-out war ended when Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon, confronted with soaring rates of Omicron infection, chose to avoid further measures to constrain our behaviour, while stressing that existing constraints would remain for now.

It ended when Scottish Ministers reluctantly acquiesced in a UK Government decision to liberalise the rules governing international travel.

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Above all, it ended when the First Minister signalled her intention to “adapt” to Covid, with a revised strategic framework to be published in the next few weeks.

Let us be quite clear what that implies. It means living with Covid. An approach Nicola Sturgeon once shunned as unhelpful.

I make no complaint whatsoever about that change of tack. It is perfectly sensible. Unavoidable, in fact, given the passage of time and the alteration in public attitudes since this plague first assailed us.

In her Holyrood statement, Ms Sturgeon remained cautious. She was not, she said, of the “let it rip mentality”. Both she and the Prime Minister stressed that they might yet have to revisit constraint.

However, there is a now a palpable change of tone. So what has altered? For one thing, the virus.

I tend to shun anthropomorphism. However, it is tempting to view Omicron as a sneaky trick by a wily and baleful enemy.

Just when we thought we were beginning to surmount the plague, it shape shifts, finding a new way to torment us.

Still, the new variant, while more transmissible, appears to be less damaging to our health. Perhaps that is the route out of the pandemic; a less virulent mutation countered by vaccination. Eliot’s whimper.

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Secondly, money. The economy is already struggling and, arguably, would succumb to any further lockdown. The Scottish Chambers of Commerce this week urged Ministers “to go further and faster” in removing constraints.

Also, with regard to cash, the public exchequer cannot afford a semi-permanent rescue fund for a stricken private sector, especially while the health and care services are under enhanced pressure.

Thirdly, for Ms Sturgeon, there is the UK dimension. Boris Johnson, beset by libertarian individualists on his back benches, simply cannot countenance further constraint.

He faced sustained pressure this week from his own side. Most plausibly from his predecessor, Theresa May, who noted quietly that the UK cannot shut down the economy for each succeeding variant.

That Commons discourse makes things additionally difficult for Scotland’s First Minister. Her electors would swiftly cry “unfair” if distinctive constraints were again imposed north of the Border, while England escaped.

Finally, there is that question of public attitude. Democratic governments can only truly act in line with public tolerance. They can persuade, they can cajole. But there are limits. (In the long run, that may also be true of unelected tyrannies.)

With regard to Covid, the limits have been reached. People are sick to the back teeth of life like this. They have had enough. Up with this they will no longer put.

Nicola Sturgeon knows this full well. For example, she told MSPs this week it was “just not feasible to ask people to avoid all social contact”, after they had endured two years of varying constraint.

She added that measures which restrict our lives cannot be imposed indefinitely. Hence the revised strategy. Hence living with Covid.

So, what might that mean? At the macro level, there is bound to be an impact upon the health service, upon prevention and care.

A core concern throughout this pandemic has been that the NHS might be swamped by Covid cases. That concern revived with Omicron, simply owing to the large number of potential cases.

In the short term, that was the genesis of lockdown: an attempt to slow the spread of the plague and thus give the NHS time and space to cope.

But, in the longer term, we need to adapt our NHS. We need to enhance its efficiency, improve its staffing deployment and, above all, accelerate the pending reform of social care to reduce bed blocking.

This will expend effort and treasure. But it is unavoidable.

In schools and other public spaces, hygiene measures will need to be maintained, with perhaps some limited form of distancing. Such behaviour will become endemic, although its effects are bound to lessen.

Above all, there is vaccination. In the absence of constraint, it remains the primary weapon against Covid. With, again, a range of global views.

Most sensibly, the World Health Organisation warned against “vaccine hoarding”, reminding wealthy nations that they remain vulnerable to new variants if they do not suppress Covid in poorer parts of the world.

Then there was President Emmanuel Macron. He said he would “emmerder” the unvaccinated: he would immerse them in excrement by keeping them out of theatres or (the ultimate French sanction) cafés.

Merde alors, too much for French sensibilities. (A few noted there is an election pending.)

More seriously, I note that the President does not approve of enforced vaccination. Neither do I.

Now, many would argue that to be against vaccination is like being against gravity. Futile and ultimately counter-productive.

Yet citizens must be free to refuse. However, liberty is far from absolute. States and communal societies are entitled to apply sanctions upon individual behaviour.

They are entitled to enforce these sanctions by law. That is particularly true when, as it appears, vaccination is, in effect, our last and most substantive barrier against this grim and persistent pandemic.

States and societies exist to preserve the common weal, alongside the freedom of the individual. A question of balance.

States can say: you are free to refuse vaccination. We are, equally, free to deny you access to certain shared facilities. to protect the health of others.

Just ask Novak Djokovic.