Newspaper headlines: Volunteer 'army' and NHS workers 'threat to quit'

By BBC News

  • Published
excel centreImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The ExCeL Centre in east London will have capacity for 4,000 patients

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.

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.

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".

Image source, PA Wire
Image caption,
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".