Newspaper headlines: Volunteer ‘army’ and NHS workers ‘threat to quit’


Front page of the Sun

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A call for 250,000 volunteers to sign up to help the NHS tackle coronavirus leads to the Sun’s headline, “National Help Service”. The health secretary wants to use the volunteers to deliver medicine and supplies to 1.4 million vulnerable people who have been asked to isolate at home to protect them from Covid-19, the tabloid reports.

Front page of the Times

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Leading on the same story, the Times calls these 250,000 people an “army of volunteers”. It adds that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to impose further travel restrictions after commuters crammed on to public transport on Monday.

Front page of the Guardian

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Meanwhile, the Guardian reports a huge NHS recruitment drive to tackle the pandemic “risks being undermined” by the prospect of doctors quitting over fears of inadequate protective equipment. Doctors’ and nurses’ groups say their members are still being expected to take unacceptable risks.

Front page of the i

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An image of members of the armed forces helping to deliver emergency NHS equipment makes the front page of the i. In what the paper says is the “biggest week” for the health service since 1948, a new temporary hospital opens at London’s ExCeL exhibition centre with 4,000 beds – as staff prepare for an influx in coronavirus patients.

Front page of the Metro

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The “makeshift field hospital” opening next week also makes the lead story in the Metro. The paper says the Army is helping to convert the giant exhibition venue into the “Nightingale Hospital”, which will have two wards for 2,000 patients each. The paper also slams “idiots” defying government guidance by hosting outdoor barbecues.

Front page of the Daily Mirror

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The Daily Mirror leads with a plea from four-year-old Mila, who asks readers to stay at home to help keep her safe as she undergoes cancer treatment. In the main image she holds up a picture she drew of all of her family inside her home “so we can live happily ever after”.

Front page of the Daily Star

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In a similar message to Mila, the Daily Star urges readers to “become a couch potato”. It says D-Day war veterans and survivors of the Blitz are begging younger Brits to “do your duty” and stay on the sofa to help protect vulnerable people from coronavirus.

Front page of the Daily Telegraph

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Police officers will “persuade, cajole, negotiate and advise” members of the public to follow the government’s stay-at-home guidance, rather than taking a hardline approach, the Daily Telegraph reports. But the paper adds that new laws will give police the power to fine people outside their homes in groups of more than two – and that the fines could be “unlimited”.

Front page of the Financial Times

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The Financial Times leads with a warning from Chancellor Rishi Sunak that some businesses will inevitably collapse as a result of the virus. The paper’s splash image depicts factory workers keeping their distance in Wuhan, China. Restrictions for people across the central Hubei province – where the virus originated – are easing after a drop in new cases.

Front page of the Daily Express

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And millions of new tests will help to defeat coronavirus in the UK, the Daily Express quotes the health secretary as saying. Matt Hancock said 3.5 million antibody tests purchased by the government will indicate whether people have had Covid-19 in the past. This could help to determine whether people are safe to go back to work.

It is, claims the i, the biggest week for the NHS since it was founded in 1948.

The Sun focuses on a plan to recruit 250,000 health volunteers to help tackle coronavirus – describing it as the “National Help Service”.

The Daily Mirror believes the transformation of the ExCeL Centre in east London into a field hospital for up to 4,000 patients should be a “wake-up call for those still in denial about the horror that is to be unleashed”.

The Daily Telegraph offers an insight into the pressures facing the service. It reports that in a call between health chiefs yesterday, one of NHS England’s national directors said London would run out of intensive care beds in just four days without urgent action. 

The Sun praises the heroic work being done by the NHS, but it fears it will not cope without a monumental national effort of a kind not seen for 80 years.

The main story in the Daily Express is devoted to a pledge by Health Secretary Matt Hancock to buy 3.5 million antibody tests. The Times reports that Mr Hancock is under pressure to spell out when tests for the virus will be available for NHS staff.

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Getty Images

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The ExCeL Centre in east London will have capacity for 4,000 patients

The Guardian says there is a risk the massive recruitment drive to help contain the pandemic will be undermined by doctors quitting because of fears about inadequate protective equipment.

The Financial Times says it is inexcusable that frontline staff members are dealing with virus patients “dressed in paper masks and their own aprons”.

The Mirror accuses Boris Johnson and his government of being “criminally slow to respond to the threat” – but thinks there is a faint hope that the NHS is fighting back, bolstered by medical volunteers and recently retired staff.

The Times argues that while Mr Johnson may have got it right this week, it questions why Britain has not learned from South Korea – which has so far been conspicuously successful in bringing its outbreak under control by carrying out extensive testing.

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The back page of the Daily Star has an image of the Olympic flame still burning, despite Tokyo 2020 being postponed until next year.

The Guardian says British athletes endorsed the decision, accepting that sport should take a back seat in the midst of the global pandemic.

Matt Dickinson in the Times wonders why the decision took so long. It was, he writes, “insulting the intelligence – not to mention unfair to the efforts of thousands of anxious athletes – to pretend otherwise for any longer”.

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PA Wire

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Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries and Health Secretary Matt Hancock answered questions from the media via a video link

The sketch writers find plenty of material in the first daily Downing Street briefing conducted with journalists asking questions from remote locations.

John Crace in the Guardian describes how deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries “unexpectedly found herself in the role of agony aunt” as she was asked for guidance on whether or not couples who do not live together should visit each other.

For Quentin Letts in the Times that question – from the Sun’s Tom Newton-Dunn – was best yet about the lockdown.

Another journalist who took part was Paul Waugh, from HuffPost UK. He admits that when he appeared on screen, he looked like a “vicar in a hostage video”. His excuse was to blame the dog downstairs who “kept him in the attic”.

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