Newspaper headlines: Virus ‘strikes at heart of government’


Daily Mail front page

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Most of the front pages lead with the news that the prime minister has tested positive for coronavirus. Boris Johnson is one of the “big three” to be hit by the virus, the Daily Mail says – with Health Secretary Matt Hancock also testing positive and Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty showing symptoms. The paper describes the development as “a triple blow to the heart of government” – although Mr Johnson and Mr Hancock are only experiencing mild symptoms and are both working from home while self-isolating.

The Sun front page

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The Sun says the prime minister will be “running the country by video link” from his Downing Street flat, while his pregnant fiancée, Carrie Symonds, has moved out. It comes as the death toll in the UK rose by 181 to 759, the paper adds.

i front page

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While Downing Street has said Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab would stand in if the prime minister was unwell and unable to work, there are no plans for him to do so at present, the i reports. For now, Mr Johnson will continue to lead the virus response from his flat above 11 Downing Street, with his meals left at the door by Civil Service staff, the paper adds.

Daily Express front page

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“No 10 virus bombshell”, is the headline for the Daily Express, which says the prime minister has “vowed to keep leading the fight against coronavirus”. Meanwhile, the government announced NHS staff would begin being tested to see if they have the virus “in days”, the paper reports.

Mirror front page

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“Nobody’s safe”, declares the Daily Mirror in reaction to the news. The paper echoes Michael Gove’s message at Friday’s news conference that the prime minister testing positive for the virus is a reminder that it “does not discriminate”.

Guardian front page

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The Guardian says Mr Johnson has been accused of failing to heed his own advice to the public over how to contain the virus, after the three key public figures showed symptoms. The prime minister has previously been accused of failing to keep an appropriate distance from other senior figures and has continued with his parliamentary duties this week, prompting criticism from some public health experts, the paper reports.

The Times front page

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All three men attended cabinet in person on Tuesday and until this week the government was still holding emergency Cobra meetings in person, according to the Times. The paper says this will prompt further questions over whether members of the government are following their own guidance on social distancing. Meanwhile, the rate of infection in the UK is doubling every three to four days, the paper reports.

Telegraph front page

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Given Mr Johnson, Mr Hancock and Prof Whitty have had so much contact with other ministers, there are now fears the virus could spread through cabinet, according to the Daily Telegraph. However, other ministers will not be tested unless they develop symptoms because the government is no longer tracing contacts of people who have the virus, the paper adds.

Financial Times front page

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Meanwhile, the Financial Times says the government is under fire for missing opportunities to acquire more medical ventilators to save people with respiratory difficulties caused by Covid-19. Ministers say 8,000 ventilators under order should be available over the next few weeks, on top of the more than 8,000 the NHS already has access to – but a total of 30,000 are required, according to the paper. However, several companies have said offers were not taken up to provide some of the additional machines needed, the paper reports.

Daily Star front page

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Finally, the Daily Star is urging its readers to wipe clean their letterboxes and doorbells “to protect our brave posties”. The paper says postal workers are “delivering a mountain of stuff” people have ordered to ease their “lockdown boredom”.

Most of Saturday’s papers lead on the prime minister and the health secretary testing positive for Covid-19 – and the news that England’s Chief Medical Officer is in self-isolation with symptoms.

“Coronavirus strikes at heart of government”, “Number 10 Virus Bombshell” and “Crisis as big three hit by virus” are among the headlines.

The Daily Mail asks why Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock did not practise what they preached when it comes to social distancing, saying they were pictured at close quarters in the House of Commons in recent days.

The Sun’s take is that Covid-19 is starting to “rip through” the top of government, leaving aides wondering “who’s next?” – or “flu’s next?” – as the headline reads.

The prime minister’s diagnosis also makes the headlines on the other side of the world. In Australia, the Sydney Daily Telegraph says “Boris Gets The Bug”, describing the prime minister as the UK’s “second highest-profile” victim of the virus, after Prince Charles tested positive just days earlier.

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PA Media

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Mr Johnson and Mr Hancock were seen together at PMQs on Wednesday

The Financial Times claims the government has missed opportunities to acquire more medical ventilators to help people with respiratory difficulties caused by the coronavirus. The paper has spoken to companies which say their offers to provide additional machines have not been taken up.

The Italian novelist Francesca Melandri has written what’s billed as a letter “from your future” in the Guardian, as she describes the storm of emotions being experienced by people in her home country that the UK can expect in the coming days and weeks.

Her predictions include plenty of eating – because it is one of the few things you can still do, discovering the true nature of those around you and, at points, being afraid.

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More than 9,000 people in Italy have died with coronavirus

The front page of the Times includes a study which suggests that Britain is currently on course for 5,700 deaths from coronavirus – far fewer than originally predicted.

The scientists behind the research, at Imperial College London, say they have based their calculations on the assumption that the country will follow the same path as China.

They have emphasised that this does not mean previous estimates were alarmist – but that the government’s social distancing strategy is working.

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The Daily Telegraph reports on the testing of frontline NHS staff, which is expected to begin this weekend. It says a source close to the Government has said antibody tests will soon be available to confirm whether someone has had coronavirus and is now immune.

It also says public health officials are looking at whether people could be given a certificate which allows them to leave lockdown and get back to work.

The Daily Express reports on the University of Oxford scientists who are recruiting volunteers to try out a coronavirus vaccine.

They will need up to 510 healthy adults from the Thames Valley area who will either be given the inoculation or a control injection for comparison. The paper explains that the vaccine won’t be ready for a number of weeks.

And the Daily Star is concerned about the safety of postal workers who are delivering what it describes as a “mountain of stuff” being ordered to “ease the coronavirus lockdown boredom”.

The paper is urging people to keep their front doors clean, with the headline “Scrub Yer Knobs and Knockers”.

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