Newspaper headlines: Coronavirus 'knife edge' as Sedwill stands down

Sir Mark Sedwill welcomes Boris Johnson to Downing Street after he became prime minister in July 2019 Image copyright PA Media

Most of Monday's papers lead on the departure of the UK's top civil servant, Sir Mark Sedwill.

The Daily Express says the prime minister has taken an axe to the civil service by forcing Sir Mark from his job. It's one of a number of papers to picture Boris Johnson on his first day at No 10, shaking hands with the cabinet secretary while his top aide, Dominic Cummings, looks on.

The Times believes Mr Johnson is trying to "bend the government machine to his will".

The prime minister wants the new head of the civil service to be a Brexiteer, according to the Daily Telegraph. The paper says the frontrunner is Simon Case, the Duke of Cambridge's former private secretary, who led the government's review of social distancing restrictions.

The Sun says Mr Cummings sees the civil service as a "cosy club guilty of group-think".

The Guardian believes Sir Mark was likely viewed as a "Remainer at heart", who never recovered from warning that a no-deal Brexit would be a "dire outcome" for the UK. Former colleagues of Sir Mark's complain to the paper that he's been made "the fall guy" in press briefings for mistakes made in the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis. Sir Bob Kerslake - a former head of the civil service - tells the paper an urgent independent inquiry should be held into the matter.

The Financial Times says there's unhappiness in the military and security services about Sir Mark's replacement in the role of national security adviser. A senior Tory tells the paper officials are angry about the appointment of David Frost - currently the government's chief EU trade negotiator - because they're concerned he's "under-qualified".

The Daily Mail describes a "bitter power struggle" between the Sir Mark and Mr Cummings - who it says regarded Sir Mark as a roadblock to civil service reform. And the paper says Mr Frost's September start date has effectively set a hard deadline of August for trade negotiations with the EU to be finished. The government reportedly hopes the deadline will heap pressure on EU leaders to agree concessions.

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The Times says Mr Johnson will try to reset the political agenda with the announcement of a £1bn building programme for schools in England.

It's part of a "decade of investment" to be promised in a speech tomorrow, according to the paper, with further spending due on hospitals, prisons and transport. The Times' editorial says it's an opportunity for the government to show it can "relaunch" the nation after "the shock of a pandemic".

The Daily Mail welcomes what it describes as a "much-needed burst of positivity". But it says there are serious questions about where the money will come from for what it describes as a "Corbyn-esque splurge".

The Labour mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham - writing in the Daily Mirror - says northern England is "about to find out" whether Mr Johnson will put his money where his mouth is.

The Independent says it's uncovered concern among health experts about the government's decision to create large private laboratories to process Covid-19 tests. The website has seen a letter to health chiefs by three senior NHS clinicians. They warn that the 72-hour turnaround time at the so-called "Lighthouse Labs" is "too slow to run an effective track and trace operation". A government spokesperson insists to the Independent the testing programme has "undoubtedly curbed the spread of the virus and saved lives".

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Doctors warn the Daily Mail that patients might have to wait up to a year for hip and knee replacements because of coronavirus infection controls. Hospitals are said to be running at half their usual capacity, with a huge backlog of operations. A leading orthopaedist tells the Mail there's concern that some of those on the waiting list are being prescribed powerful opiate painkillers by GPs.

The Daily Telegraph says the government's plan to reopen schools in September is under threat from head teachers who are "refusing" to fine parents who don't send their children to lessons. They're reportedly planning to use a legal loophole that allows for absences under exceptional circumstances. The Association of School and College Leaders union explains to the Telegraph that many will feel sympathetic to parents who are scared for their children's safety - and that bringing in fines in September would be "unwise".

With the front-page headline "We Are Not Amused" the Sun says hikers and tourists are using the Queen's Balmoral estate as an outdoor toilet. Royal staff are said to be infuriated, and have published guidance for walkers on the estate's Twitter account. The paper says public toilets on the 50,000 acre plot have been closed because of coronavirus. There's no comment from Buckingham Palace.

Image copyright PA Media

And bells at thousands of churches and chapels across England are to ring out again after being silenced during lockdown, reports the Daily Telegraph. Under guidelines agreed by the Church of England, the paper says, socially-distanced chimes can take place for a 15-minute period. The Central Council of Bell Ringers tells the paper a full peal is therefore unlikely. Under the guidelines, masks for bell-ringers will apparently be a "personal choice". The council thinks it will be "pretty difficult" to wear gloves, because the ropes are "too slippery".