It had to happen sometime. Last Sunday morning Father Antony and I tested positive for Covid-19 and we had to close the church at short notice. On the Wednesday and Thursday before, we had been visited by our Provincial and by Father Paul Francis. On the Thursday morning, as we came out of Morning Prayer, Father Justinian’s carer was waiting to tell us that he had tested positive and would have to go into isolation, and that we would all need to take a test. At that time, we all tested negative. We tested negative Friday and Saturday as well, which was a relief, as I had to celebrate a wedding on the Friday. On those two nights we were on call for the Royal Infirmary, and it is certainly providence that we weren’t called out. I didn’t sleep so well on Saturday night, and so I got up early and tested myself. I was positive. I told Father Antony who, at first, thought he might be able to say all the Masses that day and test himself in the evening but, just to be safe, he took a test then, and he too was positive. Notices were hastily put up at the church by volunteers. People were greeted as they arrived for the expected Masses to let them know the story. Notification was immediately put up on the website. I was taking phone calls and explaining. It was the best we could do.
Father John, at that stage, was still testing negative, but he was convinced he was positive, and I don’t think he was just feeling left out. We had many messages of understanding and support. Deacon Joe arrived out with a whole load of shopping and a bundle of new test kits. When Father John tried one of the new kits, he too tested positive. Even though we all have Covid now, we are still isolating from each other to a large extent, just for safety. It seems to be affecting each of us in different ways, with different sounds of coughing, sneezing, wheezing and barking, emanating from each room; and different levels of fatigue, loss of appetite, and ennui, on display from each of us. A couple of nights ago I was up at 3am changing every item of bed clothing, including the duvet, as they were all saturated in sweat. Last night I had to change my pyjama top twice. The other lads seem to be sleeping fine. Today I feel I may have turned a corner but, after any kind of activity, even trying to write this log, I end up having to lie down. My sleep pattern is totally disrupted.
After testing positive last Sunday, Father Antony and I had contacted the NHS with our results. I don’t know if it was because of my age, but, unlike him, I then was bombarded with text messages and emails, until eventually I was called by a lovely lady who had a number of questions to ask, which I was happy enough to answer. She then advised that I should do the 10-day isolation and return to work next Tuesday 5th April. I had also contacted the Provincial and Father Paul Francis. The Provincial, so far, is fine, but Father Paul Francis has now tested positive and is in isolation. At least he made it back to Dublin and was not stranded in Glasgow. Where he lives, at Mount Argus, a number of community and staff have tested positive, but this was before he came back, so he wasn’t the carrier. I also had to put arrangements in place for the care of my younger brother. My older brother, the doyen of Scottish sports journalism, much loved of course by Celtic fans on social media, has been a stalwart, as has his dearly beloved wife. They have gone up every day, despite their own extensive caring duties towards assorted grandchildren, and will continue to do so until I am able to resume my responsibilities. Two things have become clear. Firstly, a positive test for Covid can cause a lot of disruption across the board. Secondly, and more importantly, the goodness and kindness, so much on display in the early days of Covid, has not gone away. This is our first direct experience of the virus, and the sheer outpouring of goodwill and support, including offers to do shopping and other essential tasks, has been overwhelming. One kind benefactor was back today, as I needed items posted, and I had mentioned that we were short of breakfast cereal. He then turned up with the most ginormous boxes of Corn Flakes and Weetabix I have ever seen in my life.
With renewed conviction this week I say: Protect yourselves and others, and protect Christ in you lives.