HAS it really been 18 months since I shared a smirk with a fellow shopper in my local Tesco? The chat then was all about some virus originating in China and we had both spotted a man darting about the aisles wearing green fatigues and a mask that made him look like one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Time to eat humble pie, because this week I found myself wearing the same type of mask – the FFP2 respirator mask – in my own house.

The elder student son, after being a stickler for the rules for so many months, finally let his guard down and went to watch a football match with some chums.

Giddy at the end of their finals, the vaccination roll-out, and the end of almost a year and a half of restrictions which had seen their university life eviscerated, they lost sight of the danger still present – the Delta variant which is now the dominant variant in Scotland.

The 51% rise last week in Scottish case rates saw the 20-39 year olds with the highest rates. This is a scenario playing out across the country as we speak – young people back home with the fifty-something parents.

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So began 10 days of self-isolation living with a coronavirus sufferer in a small, one-bathroomed house.

For him – apart from the fever, coughing and aching limbs – it hasn’t been too physically bad, judging from the loud expletives and maniacal laughter emanating from his well-ventilated room courtesy of the online game he was playing with his similarly afflicted pals.

And – I heard him complain on a Zoom – the food has been ‘good’ although a bit ‘late’.

Late? Frankly, there have been days when I felt like serving up cold gruel for breakfast, lunch and dinner so annoyed did I feel that he brought Covid-19 to the house.

Bang went my eagerly awaited trip to the cinema, return to the office and, most annoyingly, weekend to London to see my closest friend who I hadn’t seen in two years. But then the maternal love thing kicked in and I’m just grateful he doesn’t seem to be suffering as badly as he could be.

There’s also the fear that I might get it myself. Age, ethnicity, just a single dose of vaccine so far and a good few extra in the poundage department made me realise drastic action was required.

A friend who had her first jag on the same day as me was infected by her student son and had, what she described as, a grim time with it.

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I didn’t want to go down the same route, so the disposable gloves were pulled on, the high-grade FFP2 mask was donned and the disinfectant spray brandished. The bathroom was scrubbed every time he came out, and his tray and utensils purged of germs after every meal. This was the Regime.

The most entertaining part of the last week has been the interactions with the Test and Protect folk. ‘John’ was super, super polite. As a close contact of my son, he wanted to know my movements for the previous week.

As I grappled around the echoey chambers of my menopausal memory, I asked him why, given I had tested negative in a PCR test the previous day, he wanted to know my movements for the last week.

He said it was a new policy to ask for a week and not just two days. “Even though I have tested negative?” I asked.

There was a pause. John, who was phoning from Grampian, because ‘Glasgow had their hands full’ didn’t want to go back and ask that question and would I mind just telling him anyway.

He was so polite, I gave him as much detail as I could hormonally muster. But when he asked for the arrival flight number of a relative I’d picked up at the airport off a domestic flight the day before I tested negative, for the life of me I could not see the epidemiological relevance.

I tried to lighten the mood by telling John that the relative had refused to hug me and I had taken the hump with them and had had to phone them to eat humble pie (yes, more humble pie) but the silence told me that John was bored with my prosaic life. He explained that none of these people would be contacted until and unless I tested positive.

Thankfully, the Regime paid off and on day 6 of the self isolation I PCR-tested negative so none of my contacts of the week before were contacted. And actually, maybe John had a point, because after another week of scrubbing four times a day in between work calls, fears brought out by every hot flush, and not sleeping well, maybe my already addled brain might have lost sight of who I had seen some two weeks before.

It feels like we are at a very fragile place where the 1.2 million of us in Scotland who have just had the one dose, as well as those who haven’t taken up the offer of the vaccine need to be very careful as the cases rise in our younger people if we live or interact with that group.

According to the Scottish Government, hospital bed and ICU occupancy are expected to ‘plateau or rise’ over the next few weeks. So, it isn’t over and if that means a Regime and a few awkward questions from John to get us to a safer place, I’ll take it.

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