IT would be unthinkable for the entire population of one of Scotland’s towns to disappear, street by street, over a period of less than one year.

It sounds, in fact, like something out of science fiction.

But the chilling truth is that the number of people now known to have been lost to coronavirus in the UK since the pandemic began is the equivalent to the loss of all residents of a town the size of Paisley.

Around 80,000 men, women and even children have died as a result of Covid-19, a virus that seemed so remote when news of the Wuhan outbreak first reached us.

Life has changed since then in almost every way – family and friends kept apart by social distancing, offices closed, teaching delivered remotely.

READ MORE: Covid figures in Scotland today: 93 more deaths recorded as cases rise

And rather than going away, the virus, now mutated into a more transmissible strain, retains a firm hold on the UK.

As many as 1325 new deaths were reported on Friday – a couple of hundred fewer than the population of the village of Howwood, near Paisley.

At more than 2.95 million separate cases, the UK-wide number of cases found since recording began is more than half of the population of Scotland.

For our country of 5.4m alone, the number of citizens killed by coronavirus is nearing 7000. On Friday a new, regrettable marker was reached as the number of deaths of people with positive Covid deaths recorded in a 24 hour period reached 93 – the highest daily total since the start of the crisis.

All this is despite the concerted efforts of government, police and health boards.

The Scottish Government fears more people are now travelling by road and public transport, despite clear and firm guidance to remain within local authority areas and head out only for essential purposes, with too many people ignoring the “stay at home” rules in force across the mainland and some of our islands.

Police Scotland issued almost 700 fines for Covid breaches between mid-December and January 3.

You cannot see this virus, cannot smell it, cannot taste it, cannot avoid it other than by following hygiene and distancing rules.

And yet there remains a stubborn strain of anti-mask sentiment and some continue to espouse the idea that Covid-19 is somehow a hoax. It’s a minority position, though groups coordinated through social media are active in major cities including Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee, where protests have taken place over restrictions.

Psychiatrist Dr Lynne Taylor of NHS Grampian, says this viewpoint can be a defence mechanism. “People naturally want to feel safe,” she told the Sunday National. “That’s not as strong as denial, but it can be that people are protective and it’s safer to feel that they aren’t a threat and to go along with that belief.”

Staying at home, limited to self-selected social media bubbles, can also shape perspectives on the pandemic, Taylor says. “It is hard for some people to actually see the consequences this ideology can actually have.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: The areas in Scotland with most Covid cases

“It’s really hard for the public when they maybe have been, for example, working from home, not in an NHS environment, not in a care setting, to actually see the impact on people – they maybe don’t know someone yet who has had Covid, or they have but that individual has recovered quite quickly so they think the symptoms are mild and therefore they’re safe and it’s not going to affect them.

“All they’ve got is their own frame of reference – it’s something we see in a distant way on the news.

“Some people are comfortable going along with the belief they are not at risk.

“People will see the really awful figures that come in with regards to Covid deaths, but I don’t think will be educated enough on the impacts Covid can have in a long term way and subtle way.”