The Scottish Mail on Sunday

It’s so desperatel­y unfair that Kate’s Derek never had a chance to get jab


burning up and a thermomete­r confirmed a fever of 38.9C (102F). I also started having random extreme sneezing fits.

‘I bet you’ve got Covid from the damn football,’ said Celia, not entirely sympatheti­cally.

‘I wouldn’t be sneezing like this if it was Covid,’ I replied. ‘It’s probably just a cold. Remember those?’ (I haven’t actually had a common cold for 18 months.)

We had a spare rapid lateral flow test in the house, so I took it, making myself gag as the swab whacked my tonsils and my eyes water as it intruded into my nasal cavity – and about 15 minutes later it showed a clear result: positive. ‘Well?’ said Celia.

‘I’m pregnant,’ I replied. ‘Hilarious,’ she said, though she wasn’t laughing. ‘Does this mean you’ve definitely got it?’

‘Not definitely but probably,’ I replied. ‘Apparently, 99.9 per cent of positive lateral flow results are accurate but a lot of negative ones aren’t.’

I booked myself the more definitive PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test for the following morning to be certain and Celia vacated our bedroom faster than a greyhound springs out of a trap.

‘Next time you see me, I’ll be in a hazmat suit,’ she said.


AT 9AM, I drove myself to a car park in Haywards Heath, a few miles from my village, where a very efficient and enthusiast­ic team of people instructed me how to do a PCR test in my car and bag up the sample for them. More gagging and eye-watering but it was a very good system and I was in and out within ten minutes.

‘Good luck, Piers!’ said one of the staff as I drove off. I found those words strangely disconcert­ing.

By lunchtime, my fever was up to 39.5C (103F), and I was experienci­ng wild chills, a thick head and more explosive sneezing. I felt as rough as a badger’s a***, as they say in rural circles and went to bed.

Later, Celia messaged me today’s Sun front page that featured a Wembley yob boasting about how he drank 20 cans of cider, snorted large amounts of cocaine, lit a flare up his backside (in a scene that went viral), then sneaked his way into the final without a ticket by bribing a steward.

‘Is that what you meant by Covidsafe?’ she asked rhetorical­ly.

On the news tonight, I watched ITV Health Editor Emily Morgan report from Royal Preston Hospital where 60 per cent of the 60 Covid patients currently in ICU or on an acute ward, have not been vaccinated, and many are quite young.

‘It’s such a large figure, it’s almost incredible,’ she said.

‘There are fit and healthy people in their 30s on ventilator­s. These are people who are eligible for the jab, decided not to have it for whatever reason, and are now fighting for their lives. We’ve heard the warnings from scientists and Ministers for months now but seeing the impact of not getting the vaccine is no less shocking.’

Unfortunat­ely, we have also been subjected to warnings from crank conspiracy theory whack-jobs that the vaccines are an evil Government plot to control our minds, and from prominent media figures, who should know better, constantly seeking to downplay Covid’s danger.

One of the unjabbed patients was a 28-year-old man named Darren Gaskell, who caught the virus from a mate in the pub. ‘I didn’t think I was going to catch it,’ he said through an oxygen mask. ‘I didn’t really know anybody that close to me who’d had Covid. I just thought it was more of a worldwide thing than a local thing. I just didn’t think I was going to get it. I thought I’m young, I’ll be able to fight it if I get it, it’ll just be a bit of flu but it’s not. I’ve never been this ill in my life. This is the most ill I’ve ever been.’

His message? ‘If I could turn back the clock, I would get vaccinated. Everyone should get vaccinated as soon as possible if they can.’


MY PHONE bleeped at 7.14am. ‘Your recent coronaviru­s test has come back positive.’

So I am now officially one of the 5.52million people in the UK known to have been infected by the virus, of whom 129,000 have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid.

As I’m sure everyone who gets it feels, it’s a strange, disquietin­g moment to know I have this killer virus inside me.

I’m 56, carrying a bit of excess timber (though, fortunatel­y, a lot less than when I was on Good Morning Britain thanks to better diet and a new fitness regime) and the memory of what happened to poor Derek Draper, the husband of my former GMB colleague Kate Garraway, remains vivid.

Derek is three years younger than me and remains in a virtual coma 15 months after being rushed to hospital at the height of the first wave of the pandemic with a headache and breathing issues.

Of course, the big and very fortunate difference for me is that vaccines have since been developed and I’m double-jabbed with the Oxford/AstraZenec­a one.

But what we don’t really know yet is exactly how effective the vaccines are at preventing serious illness or worse – apparently two jabs of AstraZenec­a reduce the risk of infection by 65 to 90 per cent, symptomati­c disease by 70 to 85 per cent, hospitalis­ation by 80 to 99 per cent, and death by 75 to 99 per cent – and given how bad I currently feel, that’s an unsettling uncertaint­y. One thing’s for sure though: I’d be feeling a damn sight more unsettled if I hadn’t been vaccinated.

I phoned Dr Brian O’Connor, a top respirator­y consultant who’s helped me at London’s Cromwell Hospital with various health issues in recent years, including a rather grim time three years ago when I ended up with five different affliction­s ending in ‘itis’, which he diagnosed as being down to presenting breakfast TV and the shattering effect it has on one’s immune system.

‘I’ve got Covid,’ I said. ‘PCR confirmed.’

‘Right, OK,’ he replied calmly, as if I’d told him I’d been stung by a bee. But then again, who wants an excitable doctor?

‘You’ll have undoubtedl­y been infected by the Delta variant,’ he continued. ‘Disappoint­ingly, we now know that none of the current vaccines protects fully against infection with some of the new variants. However, they do mean the likely effects of infection should not be particular­ly significan­t. So you’re unlikely to be hospitalis­ed and extremely unlikely to be at risk of rapid deteriorat­ion in your respirator­y status.’

That was the good news. But there was a sting in the comforting tail.

‘All that said, you may have a somewhat torrid time over the next three to seven days, so please monitor your arterial saturation­s and contact me if they fall below 93 per cent. Take paracetamo­l, and if necessary, ibubrofen, plus Vitamin D.

‘I will prescribe you a fire-fighting stash of steroids and antibiotic­s in the event of you deteriorat­ing over the weekend. I hope you won’t need them unless there is a worsening in your status.’

I’m not normally a catastroph­iser and the odds are overwhelmi­ngly good that I’ll be absolutely fine but all I could remember from this conversati­on later, as my head continued to boil, were the words ‘rapid deteriorat­ion’, ‘torrid’ and ‘worsening’.


HORRIBLE night of high fever, cold sweats, ferocious coughing and sneezing and strange aches all over my body, none of which has been helped by the very hot weather that’s turned my bedroom into a Saharan furnace.

And my voice now sounds like Barry White, though I couldn’t feel less like a Walrus of Love.

Various friends who I’ve confided in have responded in ways that I would say epitomise their personalit­ies. ‘Sending you much sympathy, although it does serve you right,’ texted Dame Joan Collins, who had seen all of my Wembley posts on Instagram.

‘Working on the obituary package already,’ messaged Sky News presenter Mark Austin, whose wife is a frontline A&E consultant.

‘Tributes failed to pour in last night…?’ I suggested.


My former TV wife Susanna Reid, who’s just been shortliste­d against me and Huw Edwards for News Presenter of the Year at the TRIC awards, was more solicitous.

‘Chicken soup, water and loving support at a distance,’ she said. ‘You OK?’

‘Yes, should be,’ I replied. ‘Most unnerving thing is late at night on your own pondering if you’re going to be one of the unlucky ones.’

‘Yes, that 4.44am psychosis.’ What was extraordin­ary is that almost everyone I’ve told said they’ve either got Covid themselves

Celia vacated our bedroom faster than a greyhound out of a trap

too or have friends and family members who do. This Delta variant is everywhere.

I’ve done the NHS app contact-tracing stuff but the real focus of that is who you were in close contact with 48 hours before symptoms started when you’re contagious without knowing it. So I’ve also been personally letting know various people who I was near to in the past week, so they can get a test just to be safe.

Last Friday, I’d been at Amanda Holden’s 50th birthday dinner party on an outside terrace at the Rosewood London hotel with the likes of Simon Cowell, Alan Carr and the ghastly David Walliams. I sat with Keith Lemon star Leigh Francis and his wife, so I texted Leigh to let him know I had Covid and said: ‘It would have been truly ironic if you two had gone home thinking, “He’s not so bad that Morgan” and then discovered I’d infected you with a killer virus.’

‘Ha ha, we did both say that!’ he replied. ‘But we’ve had tests and we’re all good.’

Cowell’s partner Lauren Silverman said they’d both also tested negative before flying to Barbados. ‘Have heard loads of people who are double vaccinated still getting Covid,’ she texted. ‘Scary stuff. It’s going to be something we all have to live with now. But thank God we have the vaccines.’


BBC newsman Andrew Marr has revealed his own ordeal after catching the Delta variant at last month’s G7 summit, despite also being fully vaccinated. Marr had similar symptoms to me, including the crazy sneezing fits, slight sore throat and headache, chills, aches, and up-anddown fever.

He told the Daily Mail’s Weekend magazine: ‘Like Government Ministers, I’d been using that glib phrase “mild to moderate symptoms” when talking about people who’d been double-vaccinated getting Covid but it can be really, really horrible. I’m still here and I was not hospitalis­ed, so by that definition I’m a vaccine success. If I hadn’t been vaccinated, I might well have been carking it in hospital, or at least on a ventilator.

‘So, I’m not saying this is a failure of the vaccines, far from it – what I’m saying is just be careful. Even if you’re double-vaccinated, you don’t have superpower­s, you can still get ill.

‘We have to open up and get the economy moving again but we also have to realise that this Delta strain is far more infectious than the earlier one, and even if you’ve had two jabs you’re not protected against serious illness. If I had a single thing to say to people it would be not to think you’re invulnerab­le, to carry on taking the precaution­s that feel right for you.’ This strikes me as extremely good advice, especially after I read this tweet by Daily Mirror political journalist Rachel Wearmouth: ‘I have a friend who is 28 years old & double jabbed.

‘He has been in hospital with Covid since Thurs. I don’t know who needs to know this but please be careful. This virus is no joke.’ That guy’s half my age. Meanwhile, the new Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced he has Covid and will be self-isolating. He’s also fully vaccinated.

I don’t know which vaccine he had. The stats show you’re significan­tly more likely to be infected with Covid if you’ve had the AstraZenec­a vaccine than the Pfizer one, but when it comes to preventing serious illness or death, they’re similarly effective.


BORIS JOHNSON and Rishi Sunak were both in close contact with Javid, so should be self-isolating for ten days. Yet, astonishin­gly, they announced this morning that they’re going to carry on working under some new Government pilot scheme.

As the country reels from the ‘pingdemic’ that’s led to hundreds of thousands of people being forced to isolate after being pinged by the NHS app, this seemed hideously tone-deaf. After disbelief and outrage erupted across the political/ media divide, a hasty U-turn was performed. But the damage is done.

Once again, as with the Dominic Cummings and Matt Hancock scandals, the public is left thinking it’s one rule for those who make the Covid restrictio­n laws and another for the rest of us. That will reduce compliance and cost lives.

By late afternoon, my fever had gone and I was feeling a lot better. ‘Glass of wine?’ asked Celia.

‘God, yes,’ I replied.

But when I sipped the 2005 Chateau Batailley, normally one of my favourite clarets, I couldn’t smell or taste anything. In fact, it was like drinking slightly rusty water. I was shocked and bemused, as I’ve had no problems tasting food or drinks like tea or coffee so far.

So, I tried another sip – but nothing, again.

This, for anyone who knows my love of good wine, is one of my worst nightmares.

My dad couldn’t taste wine for eight months after he and my mum had Covid quite badly last November, and he said the only upside was he could buy a £3 bottle of plonk and pretend it was Chateau Latour.

I texted Dr O’Connor to tell him I had indeed suffered a catastroph­ic deteriorat­ion in my condition.

‘Avoid good wine during acute Covid as it’s wasted,’ he replied. ‘You will taste strong cheap and cheerful wines but give subtle wines a miss for a while.’

‘God, this Covid really is the Devil’s work,’ I said. ‘What are we talking here – Liebfraumi­lch?’ ‘Cheap Rioja, crude Chardonnay.’ On balance, I think I’d rather die. ‘I can’t taste wine,’ I texted Susanna, who instantly realised the enormity of the crisis.

‘That’s a disaster!’ she replied. ‘But it’s for your own good, you’ll save a fortune, drop half a stone and now you can come out on a night of sparkling waters with me!’

A night on sparkling waters is what I imagine Dante endured during his Inferno journey though the Nine Circles of Hell.


FREEDOM Day and nothing more perfectly sums up the farcical reality of this historic moment than our Prime Minister, Health Secretary and Chancellor all being locked up in self-isolation.

As, of course, am I.

And my optimism last night that I might be making a quick recovery lasted until 10am today when I got hit by a sudden, brutal blast of debilitati­ng fatigue that left me flat-lined in bed all day and feeling as if I’d been run over.

Most other symptoms have gone, though I now have a persistent and very annoying cough, which like the taste/smell thing can last for weeks or even months after the virus leaves you. Each day of Covid infection seems to present new unexpected treats.

The enforced hibernatio­n has, however, given me plenty of time to think about where we are in this pandemic.

A few weeks ago, I thought it made total sense for fully vaccinated people to get back their freedom. But then I realised – mainly because my sons of 27, 24 and 20 forcefully told me! – how unfair that would be on younger people who haven’t yet had the chance to be double-jabbed and would therefore not be able to enjoy the same freedoms.

My eldest boy Spencer, who had Covid a few months ago and is so far single-jabbed, tweeted: ‘Today you will see a lot of older people whining about the young finally getting to enjoy the best part about being young. A lot of these people will also call their younger years the “best of our lives”. Today’s young sacrificed 17 months of theirs for them. Should be grateful.’ He’s got a point. If I was 27 again, I’d probably feel exactly the same as him.

As the Delta variant runs riot through the UK, the big question now is whether enough people have been vaccinated to prevent the hospitalis­ations and deaths from exponentia­lly increasing, as we saw in previous waves of the virus.

If they have, then Boris Johnson’s Freedom Day gamble may pay off.

If they haven’t, we could well face another lockdown by the autumn, which I think most of us would find truly soul-destroying and Boris might find politicall­y ruinous. He’s rolled the dice, and we’ve no idea how they will fall.


CELIA’S admirable patience for facilitati­ng my endless requests for everything from meals and pots of tea to a fan and mini-fridge is reaching a tipping point.

‘I knew that when I married someone so much older than me, I’d end up being their carer,’ she announced

It’s an eerie feeling to know I have this killer virus inside me

High fever, cold sweats and strange aches all over my body

today. ‘I just hoped it wouldn’t happen quite so soon.’

To allay her irritation, I now start each request with, ‘If I get you a nice dress on eBay, could I possibly have…?’

Self-isolation is a lot easier for the person doing it than the people who then have to do all the work.

Though I have been doing stuff I never normally do – like making my own bed, which I’ve found oddly therapeuti­c. As I lay proudly in my

fresh sheets this morning, albeit still feeling wiped out and totally devoid of energy (I tried shouting, ‘MAN UP, MORGAN!’ to myself but Covid seems oblivious to my preferred motivation­al clarion cry), Kate Garraway rang.

‘It’s the Patron Saint of Covid calling!’ she chuckled, self-mocking the fact that since Derek was taken ill, that’s pretty much all she’s been able to think or talk about either privately or publicly.

She was recording her Smooth Radio show while we spoke and broke off at one point to say to her listeners: ‘Next, a song about love and positivity!’

‘What is it?’ I asked when she came back to the phone.

‘Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely!

He wrote it for his baby daughter but the lyrics could apply equally well to Kate.

Much has been said about her extraordin­ary stoicism under the most appalling stress and strain of her family’s ongoing nightmare – Derek is back home under 24/7 nursing care but is still effectivel­y in a coma despite occasional hopeful glimmers of cognisant response – but honestly, people don’t know the half of it.

When Kate told me what her daily routine is now like, it exhausted me just listening to her. ‘I don’t know how you do it,’ I said.

‘What choice do I have?’ She replied. ‘Derek is the love of my life.’

Then, being Kate, she turned the subject back to me and my Covid experience. ‘Anyway, how are YOU getting on?’

‘Oh, my situation’s far worse,’ I laughed. ‘I can’t even taste my Chateau Batailley!’

Kate roared. ‘Oh my God!!! I know how awful that must be for you...’

‘You know, Kate,’ I replied, more seriously, ‘I’ve been thinking about you guys so much in the past week. I’ve felt pretty awful with Covid but the vaccine may well have saved my life. Derek never had the chance to take one. That just seems so desperatel­y unfair.’

‘It is,’ she agreed, ‘but I just hope everyone who can take it, does. I wouldn’t wish what we’re going through on anyone.’


STILL flat-lined in bed. Been a week now and although the fever’s long gone, the fatigue keeps overwhelmi­ng me like a soporific tidal wave. I haven’t even read a newspaper since developing symptoms, which for a news junkie like me is unpreceden­ted. (‘Avoid any intense cerebral activity for three weeks,’ said Dr O’Connor, ‘because your brain will be too foggy.’)

One explanatio­n for why I’ve felt so whacked may be that a new study has revealed that the Delta variant delivers a viral load of Covid 1,000 times greater than the original strain.

I don’t so much fear dying from the virus (in the US, where 80 per cent of new cases are Delta, 97 per cent of people hospitalis­ed with it, and nearly 100 per cent of people dying, have been unvaccinat­ed), rather the dreaded ‘long Covid’, which more than a million people in the UK have now experience­d.

A neighbour of mine, a very fit 50-year-old movie executive, discovered his lung capacity had crashed to under 70 per cent when he tried to go diving five months after he had pre-vaccine Covid.

Another TV producer friend, who also had pre-vaccine Covid, had six months of problems including breathing difficulti­es, insomnia, mental ‘fog’, an aversion to previously beloved alcohol and a constant craving for previously detested salt and vinegar crisps. This afternoon, I suddenly developed alarming chest pains that felt like severe indigestio­n. Of course, I made the dreadful mistake of Googling this apparent new symptom and read horror stories about it being a sign that I was deteriorat­ing. For an uncomforta­ble and quite scary hour, I paced my room, fretting. Then the pain went as soon as it came. God, what a relief.

Nobody wants to be the person who got taken out in the last days of the war when peace is looming again.


I WAS due to have dinner with England football legend Jamie Redknapp tonight but when I cancelled and explained why, he revealed he, too, has had Covid.

‘I was at the final at Wembley and may have got it there,’ he said, ‘though it’s impossible to know, isn’t it?

‘I feel a lot better now but I had a rough three or four days. I’ve had one jab so far. I wouldn’t want this f ***** without the vaccinatio­n though, would you?

‘All sorts of weird stuff going on inside you and when your chest starts feeling bad, as mine did for a bit, that’s worrying. Jesus, it’s been no fun.’

No, it hasn’t. And Jamie’s 48 and super-fit.


DR O’Connor’s put me on some strong corticoste­roids to jolt me out of my fatigued slump and potentiall­y help prevent long Covid creeping in. This is definitely the roughest I’ve felt from any illness in my adult life. But, as I slowly come out the other side, coughing and splutterin­g, I’m still here – unlike so many millions around the world who’ve lost their lives to Covid in this pandemic.

For that, I owe a heartfelt debt of thanks to the brilliant scientists up in Oxford who created the AstraZenec­a vaccine with such astonishin­g speed. Perhaps, I may even owe them my life?

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said today that data suggests 52,600 hospitalis­ations have so far been prevented in England by the vaccines. Was I one? I’ll never know.

Just as we can’t be sure yet that Boris Johnson’s strategy to reopen England on Monday was right or wrong. John BurnMurdoc­h, from the Financial Times, summed up where we are: ‘All eyes are now on England as a test case for whether “vaccinate all adults who want the jab, then reopen” is a blueprint for emerging relatively smoothly from the pandemic, or whether it’s promptly followed by another U-turn.’

When the Delta variant began to really rage several weeks ago, I urged a continuati­on of stage 3 of the roadmap restrictio­ns rather than full Freedom Day. It just seemed the worst possible time to open everything up.

But Dr O’Connor said: ‘I might have delayed the reopening by two/ three weeks to allow more people to be vaccinated but it seems to me that if you don’t have an axe to grind against Boris Johnson and look at it dispassion­ately, then this may well be a gamble worth taking. It certainly won’t be any easier later in the year when other respirator­y viruses are circulatin­g.’

If an eminent respirator­y consultant thinks that, then frankly who am I to say he’s wrong?

And as Boris said, if not now, then when?

The Government’s new slogan is Keep Life Moving, and as someone who supported lockdowns as the only means of suppressin­g the virus before the hugely successful vaccine rollout, I concur.

The bottom line is this: if the worst that most vaccinated people feel with Covid is how I’ve felt – and anecdotall­y that seems to be the case – then it’s time we learned to live with the virus.

Though we should tread carefully as we move. A lot more carefully than I did at Wembley.

As Dr O’Connor put it, in his last words of advice before I head back out of self-isolation this weekend: ‘Be a good boy and don’t do anything crazy…’

My own advice is very simple: GET JABBED!

I can’t taste wine. God, this Covid really is the work of the Devil!

 ??  ?? COME ON, ENGLAND! Piers, sporting his St George’s flag waistcoat, at Wembley with fans including his sons and comedian Jack Whitehall, far left
COME ON, ENGLAND! Piers, sporting his St George’s flag waistcoat, at Wembley with fans including his sons and comedian Jack Whitehall, far left
 ??  ?? LETTING HIS GUARD DOWN: Posing for snaps with two female admirers
LETTING HIS GUARD DOWN: Posing for snaps with two female admirers
 ??  ?? BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIO­NS: Before his diagnosis, Piers attended a dinner party at a London hotel thrown by Amanda Holden, second from right. Other guests included, from left, comedian Alan Carr, David Walliams, Simon Cowell and Cowell’s partner Lauren Silverman
BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIO­NS: Before his diagnosis, Piers attended a dinner party at a London hotel thrown by Amanda Holden, second from right. Other guests included, from left, comedian Alan Carr, David Walliams, Simon Cowell and Cowell’s partner Lauren Silverman
 ??  ?? HEARTBREAK­ING: A tearful GMB presenter Kate Garraway during a video call with her critically ill husband Derek. Inset above: Derek in his hospital bed
HEARTBREAK­ING: A tearful GMB presenter Kate Garraway during a video call with her critically ill husband Derek. Inset above: Derek in his hospital bed

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