10 bizarre reminders of life during pandemic two years on from Scotland’s first lockdown


It’s officially been two years to the day since Scotland entered its first ever lockdown.

March 23, 2020 marked the date Boris Johnson ordered people to stay at home to stop the virus in a nationwide TV broadcast.

In what’s felt like the longest two years ever, it’s fair to say we’ve been through a lot over the last 24 months and are only just coming out the other side.

A family listen as Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a televised address and orders the first national lockdown on March 23

Little did we know how much the words coronavirus, face masks, social distancing, circuit breakers and lockdown would become part of our everyday vocabulary.

There’s a lot of bizarre things that have become the norm since March 2020, and looking back we can’t believe how much we’ve had to adapt.

Who remembers queuing for shops, clapping on a Thursday night, toilet roll shortages and daily walks?

Here are 10 of the strangest parts of lockdown we had to get used to…

Supermarket stockpiling, queuing and ‘essential’ items

Supermarket shelves were stripped bare during the early stages of the pandemic

Scotland’s supermarkets became a battleground for panicked shoppers to stock up on a number of items during the early stages of the pandemic.

Shelves that would normally contain the likes of toilet rolls, dried pasta and hand sanitiser were left bare as Scots piled up on the essential items.

Many supermarkets were forced to implement buying limits on some items to ensure that everyone got their fair share.

This gave chancers the opportunity to cash on people’s plight by selling some of the affected items on websites such as eBay.

In one instance, a single bottle of Carex Bubblegum hand gel appeared on the site for £995 – with an option to pay in monthly installments.

And the debate on essential items took a new turn, when Scots went on the hunt for seasonal items during their trip to the supermarket.

There was confusion in Easter 2020 after some authorities claimed that chocolate eggs were not an essential item.

It reported that some stores were even told to stop selling the seasonal treats entirely.

There were also similar arguments over purchasing children’s coloring books, video games and DVDs during the early stages of lockdown.

Clapping for carers every Thursday night

NHS staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow participate in the Clap for Carers during week six of lockdown on April 30, 2020

It was our weekly ritual every Thursday night at 8pm, with the first Clap For Our Carers starting on March 26, 2020 and lasting 10 weeks during the first national lockdown.

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People took to their doorsteps, windows, driveways and balconies to applause the incredible NHS staff, care workers and key workers.

And people also took things further by banging pots and pans, playing musical instruments – and even singing.

Neighbors Seamus O’Sullivan, playing his accordion, and Ian Taylor, playing his guitar, in their street in Glasgow, as they join in the applause to salute local heroes

Some took to their doorstep to play the bagpipes, while others got a microphone and speakers and put on mini concerts for their neighbours.

It was definitely one of the more heartwarming parts of the pandemic and brought communities closer together.

It was often an emotional and stirring feeling hearing your neighborhood erupt into applause, especially while being cooped up at the height of lockdown.

Pub and restaurant rules, curfews and ‘vertical drinking’

The pub experience has been a different one for Scots over the past two years

Scots were allowed to revisit their favorite pubs and restaurants once again in July 2020 – three months after the first lockdown was imposed.

But those seeking for a return to the pre-pandemic normality were left bitterly disappointed on those first days back.

Scots were allowed to revisit their favorite pubs and restaurants once again in July 2020 – three months after the first lockdown was imposed.

Over the near two years that followed, Scots were subject to a number of strict rules. This included drinking/dining outside, table service only and strict curfews.

An example of the rules being enforced came in November 2020, when the Scottish men’s national football team qualified for its first major tournament in more than 22 years.

Football fans were forced to watch the nail-biting penalty shootout through pub windows, after bars were forced to close at 10pm in some areas.

Police Scotland were forced to launch an investigation the following morning after footage appeared to show Scotland fans in Aberdeen getting off their seats and hugging one another following the historic win.

When licensed restaurants were forced to close in the central belt following a resurgence of infections towards the end of 2020, cafes were given an exemption to the rules.

This left many businesses scratching their heads over the definition of a cafe, and whether or not the affected premises could rebrand itself as a cafe over that period.

The Scottish Government later clarified the definition of a cafe as “an establishment whose primary activity, in the ordinary course of its business, is the sale of non-alcoholic drinks, snacks or light meals, which may be consumed on the premises”

Nicola Sturgeon told businesses that they were unsure about whether they were a cafe or a restaurant should close and seek guidance from their local authority.

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New terms also entered the public sphere amid the ever-changing restrictions.

‘Vertical drinking’ was coined by the government as Scotland moved ‘beyond level zero’ in August last year. This was a reference to Scots being allowed to prop up at the bar while having a drink.

Face masks, PPE, gloves and hazmat suits

A man wears a face mask on a bus in Princess Street on June 18, 2020 in Edinburgh

Face masks became mandatory in shops in July 2020, meaning we’ve been wearing them to stay safe for 18 months.

The rules have changed somewhat over that time, with people also told them to wear them on public transport, offices, hairdressers and restaurants – but only while moving around the venue of course.

Since then, masks have become a part of our lives and we’ve had to deal with things we’ve never had to before – including glasses steaming up, ‘maskne’ skin problems and even ‘mask fishing’ – a form of a catfishing when someone looks more attractive with their face covering on.

Some took PPE a little too far, with many people going the extra mile to ensure they don’t catch coronavirus.

A few people have been spotted wearing full hazmat suits, rubber gloves and gas masks while getting their groceries at supermarkets.

Face masks are due to finally end next month, and I’m sure we’ll look back in a few years and wondered how we ever did it.

Scotland’s tier system

A tier system for Covid restrictions was introduced in Scotland in November 2020

A new five-tier system was implemented by the Scottish Government amid a resurgence of Covid infections in November 2020.

All of Scotland’s local authorities were assigned level zero to four – with areas with the lowest infection in level zero while those in four were considered to have high case rates.

The restrictions differed between all five of the levels.

Level four was considered to be closer to the full lockdown Scots experienced at the end of March, with some outdoor meetings allowed and only essential shops remaining open.

Level three saw restaurants remaining open under a range of strict measures – including the sale of alcohol being banned.

Scots in level two could eat and drink with a limited number of people in hospitality settings. Indoor meetings were allowed in level one and level zero was considered to be ‘nearly normal’.

Going on your daily walk

Police speak with members of the public as they enjoy the hottest day of the year on May 20

At the start of the UK’s lockdown, the nation was delivered the blow that you could only leave your house for an essential reason or to go for your daily exercise.

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At one point, it was actually illegal for people to leave their home or garden for anything other than an essential purpose.

People weren’t allowed to make ‘day trips’ to parks, beaches and beauty spots outside their area, so a daily stomp around the park was all we could do.

And we were only allowed to do it once a day until rules changed in May 2020 and we weren’t allowed to meet up with anyone in other households.

Strict travel rules around Scotland

Scots were banned from leaving their council areas during parts of the pandemic

During the first Covid lockdown, Scots were only allowed to leave their homes for permitted reasons – such as heading to an essential job or going out for exercise.

As Covid restrictions started to lift, rules on traveling domestically around the country were not on the agenda.

But as infections grew once again in November 2020, the introduction of the tiers system saw a travel ban enforced in level three and four areas.

People in the highest tier areas were considered to be breaking the law if they made any non-essential journeys outside their own council area.

There was also a ban on people traveling between Scotland and other parts of the UK for ‘non essential travel reasons’.

A number of people were caught out by this rule – including a man who crossed the Scotland-England border to take his pal for a takeaway meal at Burger King.

Domestic travel rules were then lifted from March last year.

working from home

A man working from home

In March 2020, the entire nation switched from commuting to the office every day to working at home from makeshift desks.

What we thought would be a couple of weeks turned into almost two years ‘WFH’ – with some businesses opting to work from home forever.

It was a huge change but definitely for the better, with many enjoying the work life balance and the chance to see family and pets more.

And now a hybrid form of working seems to be the future, with staff and workers able to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Watching Nicola Sturgeon regularly

It is believed that around a quarter of a million Scots tuned into Nicola Sturgeon’s Covid briefings during the height of the pandemic in 2020

One pandemic ritual that many Scots followed was keeping up with Nicola Sturgeon’s daily Covid briefings, particularly during the early months of the pandemic.

The First Minister would normally take to the stage alongside the National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch and the Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Gregor Smith.

Scots would tune for the latest Covid information on case numbers and any changes to restrictions.

It is believed that around a quarter of a million Scots tuned into the daily briefings during the height of the pandemic.

But opposition politicians criticized the BBC for broadcasting the daily updates as they claimed the First Minister was using the platform for political purposes and were biased in favor of the SNP.

Ofcom dismissed the complaints and found no issues to warrant an official investigation under the Broadcasting Code.

Regular Covid briefings have stopped in the past few months as Sturgeon opts to update MSPs at Holyrood instead.

everything went virtual

Christmas parties were held virtually during lockdown

It’s safe to say 2020 was the year that everything went online – and Zoom was the go-to hangout to catch up with family and friends.

Pub trips were out and virtual quizzes were in, with many loved ones meeting up over a video call to have a drink and test their knowledge to pass the nights away.

From themed Zoom parties to virtual weddings, we really embraced technology during lockdown.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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