Greenock Telegraph 15th January 2021

One of the most often repeated football related sayings is ‘taking one game at a time’. It’s used when teams are doing particularly well or particularly badly. Their focus needs to be on the next challenge, they can’t get ahead of themselves or they will fall at the next hurdle. But by taking each game as it comes, they hope to cope with it as best they can and either win the league or avoid relegation. And here we all are in 2021 and COVID-19 has locked us down again. We are reduced to living in the here and now with very limited ability to plan anything long term. The distraction of looking forward towards possible summer holidays or even just longer warmer days has been denied to us because our focus has to be on today.

Almost one year since the seriousness of the pandemic was first becoming clear we are still required to work at the very basics of washing our hands, wearing a mask, socially distancing and isolating. The vaccine will help but in itself it is not a magic wand. We still don’t know if the vaccines that have been approved, are neutralising or sterilising (killing the virus in the Nasopharynx) and unless it’s the latter then people who have been vaccinated can still carry and spread the virus. Lockdowns are hard and speaking as someone who lives alone, I understand the added pressures of isolation and the detriment to mental health of loneliness. In a study carried out last year it was clear that long life and good health is greatly increased by social contact and that’s exactly what we can’t have right now. But the alternative to obeying the guidelines is unthinkable. From the very beginning I have preached individual responsibility and that hasn’t changed. Tough as it is, we all need to double down and accept that. But we need business owners and employers to act in a responsible fashion too. Stretching the laws or seeking to exploit loopholes is criminal and ultimately counterproductive. Any action that increases the likelihood of spreading this virus also increases the chances of people dying. No employer has the right to put their employees or the public at risk. While individuals are responsible, a cooperative community mindset must also be to the fore if we are to overcome this pandemic and at the same time retain our physical and mental health.