The Papers: Testing 'circus' as Hancock says it may last weeks

By BBC News

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image captionThe latest on the UK’s coronavirus testing system features on many newspaper front pages, including the Guardian. It reports comments by Health Secretary Matt Hancock that the issues could take weeks to resolve. The paper says people have been turning up to A&E to try to get tests, and quotes an NHS trust chairwoman in virus hotspot Bolton as saying: “One day of delays can cause hundreds more infections.”

image captionThe Daily Star depicts Mr Hancock and Prime Minister Boris Johnson as clowns as it describes the testing system as a “circus”. It reports on comments by health chiefs who have said the backlog in testing has led to NHS workers being forced to miss work. Using a speech bubble from Mr Hancock’s mouth, the paper mocks the government’s latest response, suggesting ministers are blaming the sick for using up all the tests.

image captionThe Daily Mail calls the testing situation a “shambles”, as it promotes its own campaign called “Get Britain Tested”. The paper reports on Mr Hancock’s comments in Parliament, saying he admitted that tests would need to be rationed with care homes, hospitals, schools and key staff given priority. It was a “humiliating climbdown” for the health secretary, the paper says.

image captionPictures of two testing centres in Cambridge and Twickenham appearing to be empty are on the front of the Metro. The paper reports that computer glitches meant some people were unable to book appointments online leaving the testing centres “deserted”. The paper says some people have had to exploit “technical loopholes” and entering postcodes hundreds of miles away to book slots at their nearest centres.

image captionThe leader of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, has written an article in the Daily Telegraph calling on the government to let local public health teams make lockdown decisions, rather than making rules centrally. The paper quotes a source close to the archbishop who says he is “deeply concerned” about the impact of the “rule of six” banning gatherings of more than six – especially on the vulnerable, poor and elderly.

image captionThe Times reports that coronavirus infection rates amid middle-aged people are now at the same level as people in their 20s. But its top story is on plans by the NHS to record all alcoholic drinks consumed by pregnant women. Charities including the British Pregnancy Advisory Service say it could infringe data privacy rights. But the official NHS advisory body believes it could help identify babies at risk of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

image captionThe Daily Express’ top story is on Tuesday’s court ruling that saw senior judges dismiss an appeal from two women affected by changes to the state pension age. The women – who are backed by a campaign representing millions of women who were affected when the state pension age was upped from 60 to 66 – have vowed to carry on fighting, the paper says. It calls the ruling a “devastating blow to their fight for compensation”.

image captionOn its front page the Daily Mirror reports the sad news of the death of a 12-day-old baby boy who was killed by a dog. Two people have been arrested following the attack in Doncaster on Sunday.

image captionThe Financial Times leads on the news that Hitachi is preparing to pull out of plans to build a nuclear power plant on Anglesey in Wales. The paper calls it a “severe blow to Britain’s struggling nuclear power programme” at a time when the UK is trying to cut carbon emissions to reach its “net zero” target by 2050. Hitachi’s exit could also hit UK plans to reduce reliance on China, the paper says.

The problems with the UK’s testing system continues to feature on many of Wednesday’s newspaper front pages.

The i newspaper calls it a crisis and says that, when hospitals and care homes are given priority for tests, parents and teachers will be at the back of the queue.

The “world-beating system ministers promised by June has not materialised”, says the Daily Mail’s editorial, adding that the complications “were entirely foreseeable”.

In the Guardian’s view, the current government “does not deserve all the blame for what is going wrong at the moment”, pointing to the UK’s weak diagnostics industry.

But it adds “there is simply no excuse for a situation in which the answer to the question ‘What is the problem with testing?’ is that it is a secret” – and asks the government to “level with the public”.

Meanwhile, there is a claim that further restrictions on mixing with others could be introduced in a fortnight if the “rule of six” doesn’t work.

The Spectator’s columnist, Robert Peston says a senior member of the government has told him that if the limit on gatherings fails to change behaviour and suppress the rate of infection, then significant measures will be considered to stop a “major second wave”.

The columnist claims there is “a view at the top of government that pretty much every social distancing measure should be contemplated other than school closures”.

image copyrightReuters

image captionA woman shelters from the sun as she waits for a test outside a community centre in Bury, Greater Manchester
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s thoughts about the government’s response to coronavirus make the front page of the Daily Telegraph, after he wrote an opinion piece in the paper.

The paper also quotes an unnamed source – said to be close to the Archbishop – who says the Most Reverend Justin Welby is “deeply concerned” about the impact of the “rule of six” on Christmas and about families being kept apart.

And the Times reports that head teachers are seeking legal advice on whether they can ban staff from going abroad at half-term, to avoid the risk that they will have to quarantine and miss lessons when they return.

The Scottish Daily Mail says more than 1,000 teachers across Scotland have been forced to self-isolate because of Covid symptoms.

Drinking during pregnancy

The Times reports that women who drink just one glass of wine in their first week of pregnancy would have it noted on their medical records under new proposals.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence says all drinking by pregnant women should be recorded and then transferred to the child’s health records so that children at risk of harm can be identified.

The charity the British Pregnancy Advisory Service calls the guidelines “unjustified and disproportionate”, while the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists also says it has concerns.

Many of the papers report the determination of a group of campaigning women to fight on, after failing in their legal attempt to win compensation for changes to the state pension age.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionCampaigners – pictured here at a previous hearing – say their fight is not over
The Daily Express puts the story on its front page and says the “Back to 60” group is considering taking the case to the Supreme Court, after the Court of Appeal ruled against a claim that raising the pension age to 66 amounted to unlawful discrimination and that women weren’t given enough notice.

The Express says women have been denied equality for decades and it’s “cruel” to deny them a pension. The Department for Work and Pensions has said it acted entirely lawfully.

BBC pay

“Staggering” is how the Daily Telegraph describes the size of the pay packets of the BBC’s star presenters, revealed in the corporation’s annual report yesterday.
The Daily Express says the BBC has a valued role at the heart of national life but risks losing goodwill by continuing to pay celebrities and executives “gargantuan salaries”.
The Daily Mail calls the BBC “bloated” and contrasts the sums the organisation spends on its “cosseted stars” with the plight of pensioners who are losing their free TV licences.

The Financial Times says a board meeting of Hitachi in Tokyo on Wednesday is expected to confirm that the company is abandoning plans to build a nuclear power station on Anglesey.

The paper says the decision will hamper the UK’s efforts to cut the emissions that cause climate change.

Scooter trial

The Times reports that a year-long trial of electric scooters on the streets of Coventry has been suspended after just five days, because of fears about safety.

People had been riding the rented scooters on pavements and in pedestrianised areas, both of which are banned.

Some people claimed they had almost been knocked over by “reckless” scooter riders.

The scooters were intended to give people an extra way to travel at a time of reduced capacity on public transport. Trials in Birmingham are continuing.

And finally, a bright yellow fluffy acrylic toilet seat cover that accompanied the Rolling Stones on tour in the United States in 1975 has just sold for £900 Рmaking it the most expensive toilet seat cover of all time.

It bears the band’s famous red tongue logo and the Daily Mail and the i newspaper report that it was sold at auction in Beverley Hills.

It was owned by the Stones’ former bass player, Bill Wyman, now 83, who the Mail says “sent fans potty with his cool rhythms in his heyday”. The Mail’s headline reads: “Jumping Jack Flush”.

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