‘TAKE care and be cautious” warned Nicola Sturgeon on Monday afternoon, as Covid levels surged well above the previous record of 2999 new cases in one day. She asked everybody across Scotland to keep doing all the things that help slow the spread, including staying outdoors as much as possible when mixing households.

She might have been aiming to address everybody across Scotland, but I didn’t get the message until Monday evening, after I waved goodbye to visiting friends and checked the alerts on my phone. In the afternoon, when the First Minister was talking, I’d been shifting the furniture around, hoovering up rabbit fur and hanging up guest towels – not compulsively refreshing Twitter for the latest Covid case count.

When I eventually watched the unscheduled statement I was left none the wiser about whether my low-key, well-ventilated gathering would have been frowned upon.

Was it more risky than a rowdy football fan zone? A sober dinner in a restaurant? Taking a bus?

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon reacts as Scotland hits highest ever 24-hour Covid case rate

The First Minister has earned a lot of praise for her communications during the past 16 months. Many have told me that their older relatives never missed a daily briefing and felt reassured by the calm, consistent messaging. But when I’ve asked if they themselves have been religiously tuning in, they’ve said don’t be daft. When I sheepishly admit I’m permanently confused about what’s going on, they say they’re pretty clueless too.

Younger people have generally not been in a position to down tools, neglect kids or reschedule other responsibilities around an array of briefings, question sessions or special editions of news programmes. You might think: well, no problem, it’s 2021, and most of them have smartphones in their pockets, so they can catch up. But how?

Search “Covid” on the BBC iPlayer and the top results aren’t the latest briefings from UK political leaders, but four documentaries that are several months old. Search “Nicola Sturgeon” and the top hit is a session of First Minister’s Questions from January. Search “Covid briefing” and there are only two available broadcasts – a “BBC News Special” from January featuring a Boris Johnson ramble and an episode of See Hear, the magazine show for deaf people. Not for the first time, I find myself asking: “Am I just being thick here?”

Let’s try a different tack. Google “Scottish Government level rules” and the top result is a web page from May 11, although clicking through reveals the rules have been updated more recently. You then have choices – you can read though a 4700-word document setting out what you can and can’t do in your local authority’s level (assuming you don’t need to click on any of the many dozens of links for additional information), or you can open a PDF which contains a line or two under each heading (ie “indoor socialising”, “transport”, “childcare”) for Levels 0-4.

At the start of the pandemic there was a scramble to pull together policies and publicity to communicate about the drastic changes to our lives. But that was more than a year ago, and now the rules and guidance are more complex and varied than ever.

Why do we still not have a user-friendly website that allows anyone in Scotland to access the specific information they need with a few clicks or taps? Developing one surely wouldn’t be rocket science. Filling in basic details on such a site – postcode, occupation, household composition – would allow the user to home in on relevant rules and guidance without having to wade through irrelevant information.

Creating a profile saving those details would make it even easier – but could be entirely optional.

READ MORE: Number of Covid patients in Scottish health board doubles overnight

Someone without children doesn’t need to know about childcare rules and soft play availability. Someone with no loved ones in a care home or hospital doesn’t need to read through those restrictions either. A truly efficient website would ask the key questions “who are you?”, “where are you?” and “what do you want to do?” then provide clear, tailored answers about what’s permitted and what precautions should be taken.

While we shouldn’t try to run before we can walk, couldn’t such a website also send localised notifications when, for example, nurses were twiddling their thumbs at vaccination centres open for drop-ins? Heck, they could offer live updates about the length of queues for jabs and PCR tests. The technology exists to do all this.

The National: A woman recieves a 30-minute result Lateral Flow Test. Photo: PA Wire

Sturgeon tweeted on Wednesday that people should “test regularly with LFDs”, an initialism that was new to me. Many folk don’t know they can order home tests, let alone that they’re expected to do so. Is this deliberate? Would demand exceed supply if everyone knew? Try to access them via NHS Inform and you risk falling down a rabbit hole of pointless questioning before being redirected to the UK Government ordering site (and answering the same questions again).

Social media sites have figured out my exact taste in wallpaper and cardigans, so I’m sure it’s not beyond the wit of programmers to target me with updates about when I can sit in a cafe or how many friends can come round. Yes, we all have a personal duty to stay informed, but it should not be such a struggle.