SUNDAY, JULY 11
To Wembley Stadium for the Euros final between England and Italy. ‘Is this wise?’ asked my wife Celia as I headed off sporting a St George’s flag waistcoat.
‘Football’s coming home!’ I roared back defiantly. ‘We haven’t reached a final since I was 16 months old – I have to be there.’
‘Well so long as Covid isn’t coming home too,’ she sighed, wearily.
‘It’s Covid-safe and well regulated,’ I insisted. ‘Everyone there has to produce proof of being fully vaccinated like me or having had a negative lateral flow test in the past 48 hours.’Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Piers Morgan recounted his experience of heading to Wembley for the final of the Euros
As I said this, our TV was showing live footage from Wembley which already looked like total chaos, with reports of tens of thousands of ticketless fans being on the lash since 6am.
‘Doesn’t look very safe to me,’ Celia observed – correctly as it turned out.
Unlike the previous two England games I’d been to during the tournament – against Scotland in the group stage and Denmark in the semi-final – there was a highly volatile and chaotic atmosphere all around the area.
By the time I arrived with my three sons around 5.30pm, Wembley Way was a cannabis-stinking, beer-sodden, seething, brawling, chanting, tinderbox.
I’ve been to enough football matches over the past 45 years to know when things are likely to ‘kick off’ in a way that doesn’t involve a ball and this was definitely one of them. And for the first time, I’d be right down the front among the hardcore fans in the regular stands, not in a cosy hospitality box.
When we arrived at the first security barrier, it was complete mayhem as scores of drunken, aggressive, ticketless yobs tried to charge through. It was not a situation where having a recognisable face was a massive bonus.
A guy suddenly appeared at my side and said: ‘Need some help, Piers?’
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Piers said: '‘It’s Covid-safe and well regulated,’ I insisted. ‘Everyone there has to produce proof of being fully vaccinated like me or having had a negative lateral flow test in the past 48 hours'
Before I could reply, he marched up to a steward on the other side of the barrier and said: ‘I’m Mr Morgan’s security guard and concerned for his safety – OK if he and his family come in here?’
The harassed steward clocked me, instantly replied ‘Yes’, opened the metal gate and ushered us through without checking whether we had tickets or a valid Covid status.
As he did so, my ‘bodyguard’ bustled through too with his mate, their arms protectively around us. Then they both ran off laughing. They didn’t give a damn about my safety – they’d used me to get in without tickets or Covid checks.
When we approached the second security gates, the automated turnstiles to get inside the stadium itself, there was similar carnage. Nobody checked our Covid status and I could see ticketless fans pushing through with people who had tickets and then getting into fights with others inside who’d paid a lot of money to be there and resented those barging in for nothing.
My confidence that this event would be Covid safe had disintegrated – it was turning into an unregulated free-for-all.
Once inside, thankfully things were a bit calmer. A few people came up to me for selfies or a friendly chat (in a bizarre moment, one man said, ‘Piers, my Mum’s got a granite tile with your face on it! It’s on my phone’, and then showed me a photo of the tile markings which did indeed resemble me), and I wore a mask for the majority of the time when I wasn’t eating or drinking. But here’s the entirely unshocking reality: when you drink alcohol, your inhibitions drop.
'My confidence that this event would be Covid safe had disintegrated – it was turning into an unregulated free-for-all,' Piers said
After the third pint, I became less careful and when my comedian friend Jack Whitehall appeared and was promptly asked by two female admirers of mine to take my photo with them, I couldn’t resist gleefully posing, without a mask on. I threw my Covid caution to the wind because I was more excited by knowing how mortifying Whitehall would find his new role as my unpaid paparazzi.
‘We’re all vaccinated or have tested negative,’ I kept telling myself. ‘It’s fine.’ But this was just the drink talking, given that thousands of people were now in the stadium without any tickets or Covid checks.
The game was unbearably stressful, though the tension eased momentarily when a giant inflatable penis was unleashed and flew over our heads. ‘Lovely tribute to ya, Piers,’ yelled someone several rows away, ‘ya giant c**k!’
The atmosphere was incredible, the drama excruciating, the ending soul-crushing. But as we drove home after the penalty shoot-out, with our voices hoarse and our hearts battered, the boys and I all agreed on one thing: it had been one of the greatest experiences of our lives. I just hope it doesn’t turn out to have been the Covid super-spreader I fear it became.
TUESDAY, JULY 13
I’m down at my Sussex village home and began feeling a bit rough during the afternoon. I put it down to the rancid hayfever I’ve endured since early May, which has rendered me a walking zombie for numerous days when the pollen count has been raging.
But by this evening, my head was burning up and a thermometer confirmed a fever of 38.9C (102F). I also started having random extreme sneezing fits.
The atmosphere was incredible, the drama excruciating, the ending soul-crushing. But as we drove home after the penalty shoot-out, with our voices hoarse and our hearts battered, the boys and I all agreed on one thing: it had been one of the greatest experiences of our lives (file image)
‘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.
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 (file image)
WEDNESDAY, JULY 14
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 Covid-safe?’ 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.
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 (file image)
‘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.’
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
THURSDAY, JULY 15
My phone bleeped at 7.14am. ‘Your recent coronavirus test has come back positive.’
So I am now officially one of the 5.52 million 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.
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
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’.
FRIDAY, JULY 16
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?’
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 (pictured), who had seen all of my Wembley posts on Instagram
‘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 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