Gates and doors open again to crowds, and people can now decide for themselves how they respond

by Colin Campbell

IN the end the virus wasn’t a good enough reason to stay away from the football. The football, however, would have been a good enough reason to stay away.

I’m referring to the Rangers v Malmo European Champions league match on Tuesday night, for which I managed to secure two precious tickets after a gruelling online ordeal on Monday morning which showed me all too clearly how a website malfunctions after it is overwhelmed by demand, and the frustrations that go with it.

But I got those precious tickets, and went on to watch a pitiful display by the Ibrox side, and no more need be said about the match itself than that. Rangers, for the record, were beaten by a team who had a player sent off, after a terribly poor performance.

There were over 50,000 people there, and for a relative and myself it was the first return to sporting normality for 18 months.

Whether or not to attend events involving close contact with other people will remain an issue of debate, concern and contention for months and maybe years ahead.

Pubs, nightclubs, concerts and sporting events all come into the mix.

But the rules and regulations have gone and now it’s up to everyone to decide for themselves how to respond.

That’s how it should be.

Vaccinated, or for the majority of people now, fully vaccinated, very many believe that we can and should delay a return to normality no longer.

If we wanted to go to a football match now but were afraid to go because of the virus, when would we be less afraid to go? The answer to that looks to me like, never.

The same applies to all other large and social gatherings of people.

Fully vaccinated, what more protection against the virus is available? There isn’t any.

So it’s down to a matter of personal choice, with politicians no longer dictating what we can or can’t do. Step aside Sturgeon and Johnson, from now on we decide for ourselves.

There were very few face masks in the crowd at Ibrox, and signs repeating the “face masks should be worn” mantra were ignored and seemed completely pointless.

How many people want to sit watching a football match in a face mask, especially with the vocal noise all around?

I did, however, put on a mask amid the jostling crowd queueing for access to the toilets at half time, although few other people did. That was the only point where I clearly remembered the existence of the virus, and felt a bit uncomfortable. And I did hang back to let the crowds clear at the end.

But the dismal result and performance was the only talking point between me and my companion afterwards.

However, an element of caution remained nonetheless. One member of the household I was staying with was going to lunch on Wednesday with several people including two in their 80s, so it had been decided that “social distancing” rules would apply after our return from Glasgow. Just in case.

That decision, in relation to contact with very elderly people, seemed an eminently sensible way of responding to the rather confusing and obscure “Return to normality but exercise caution” message rather half-heartedly offered by the government.

Nothing is clear cut about getting back to normal. Questions will arise from different angles about what you should or shouldn’t do. Go for a test after going to a football match, or a concert, or to the pub? Go there at all? What about the risk you may present to others? These may be valid enough questions in some respects, and some uncertainty will last for a long time.

But the one certainty for many is that we can’t remain locked up and shy away from things that make life worth living for any longer, or for ever and a day. And be required by law to do so. That has to end.

The extremely high level of protection the vaccine affords against illness and infection is a miracle advance from where we were a year ago, and it’s only right that people should now be able to decide for themselves how to go forward. So we went to Ibrox on Tuesday. And the only after-match sentiment I had is that, solely because of the performance, I almost wished I’d stayed away.

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