Aren't some Covid rules past their sell-by date yet? – Stephen Jardine

For a holiday house it was surprisingly well equipped. All the crockery was new, the TV was state of the art and the kitchen had every electrical gadget on the market.

A shopper wearing gloves gets them sprayed with hand-sanitiser as a precaution against Covid (Picture: Claudio Santana/Getty Images)

There was even a snooker table and, according to the welcome guide, a wide selection of board games were available for that rainy day.

Except I couldn’t find them, which seemed odd. Surely the espresso machine would be nicked long before Scrabble or Pictionary? An over-enthusiastic trick shot eventually revealed the secret.

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Beneath the snooker table, where the cue ball ended up, was a sealed plastic crate containing the board games. On the lid a stern notice informed that they were unavailable “due to Covid” as it would be impossible to guarantee their sterility. And this is where we now are.

Eighteen months ago, Covid was a silent killer so we were advised to take all precautions. Before face coverings were compulsory, I can remember going into a supermarket wearing disposable gloves because of some terrifying story on social media.

However we now know an awful lot more. While masks help stop aerosol transmission and ventilation makes it more difficult for the virus to circulate, hard surfaces are not the big issue.

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In May the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said transmission through surfaces is “not thought to be a common way Covid-19 spreads”. A study in Massachusetts found you would be much more likely to get influenza or norovirus from a table or door handle than coronavirus.

Yet hand sanitiser remains everywhere and in public places you are never far from someone cleaning and polishing. Scientists call it hygiene theatre, the act of doing something for the message it sends rather than for any medical efficacy. There is a lot of that going on at the moment.

Take one-way systems. Pre-pandemic, they were the preserve of small Scottish towns determined to drive away any unsuspecting visitors. It’s rumoured locally that a man from Carlisle who arrived in Dumfries in 2007 is still trying to navigate his way out of the town.

Then came Covid and someone’s sister met a man who knew someone who caught Covid from walking past a person in a shop and the rest is history. The health and safety advisers drafted in to create protocols for companies rolled up their sleeves and suddenly we were all following the arrows and cowering from ‘no entry’ signs.

Waitrose chose not to introduce this so you might think their customer base would have been decimated compared to Tesco which rigidly enforced their one way system in shops. Quinoa producers will be happy to learn, that didn’t happen.

With the end of social distancing, some one-way systems have disappeared but in other places they persist, treating the public like confused toddlers.

And that’s the thing. Over the past 18 months, our lives have been controlled and our behaviours dictated like never before. Now we have Covid passports, nudging the unvaccinated towards the needle. That at least makes sense in a way other measures don’t.

Perhaps surface-cleaning protocols are needed to stop us getting norovirus and one-way systems stop clumsy people bumping into each other, but that has nothing to do with Covid.

If we’re going to be controlled, we deserve some honesty about that.

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