Newspaper headlines: Hospitals plan for second spike, and more testing

By BBC News

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
People queue at a test centre in Southend-on-Sea in Essex

Many of Friday's papers look ahead to what could come next for the UK as coronavirus cases surge - with stories on potential lockdown measures and hospital preparations.

The Financial Times says leading scientists are proposing there should be a two-week national lockdown and are looking at whether it should coincide with half-term.

One scientist who is a member of the government's scientific advisory committee, Sage, tells the paper that this way the measure would have only a limited impact on education.

Another official says there is a very strong reluctance at the top of government to go anywhere near another national shutdown - but suggests ministers might have to.

The cumulative impact of local restrictions is brought home by the Daily Mirror's front page headline: "10 million in lockdown".

It says the threat of further restrictions now looms over Leeds and several London boroughs.

Infection rates in Leeds remain lower than in other cities, according to the Guardian, but have been increasing rapidly.

The Daily Telegraph has a cartoon depicting Prime Minister Boris Johnson pointing at a map of the UK and declaring: "I will impose as many local lockdowns as it takes to avoid another disastrous national lockdown".

But the paper's top story reports that hospitals and councils have been told to find extra beds for coronavirus patients within two weeks as the NHS braces itself for a second spike in cases.

The idea is to make sure there's somewhere for people to recover in isolation - so they are not sent straight back to care homes with dire results.

According to the paper, the government is also drawing up a traffic light system for applying restrictions. "Amber", it says, includes a provision for "mandatory masks" - suggesting face coverings will be legally required in more settings than they are now.

In its editorial, the Mail says another national lockdown would be "insane".

It says it would inflict a colossal cost in terms of economy, jobs, health and quality of life - arguing this would be too much of a price to pay to "eradicate a virus harming a tiny fraction of the population".

Image source, EPA
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Boris Johnson has previously said a second national lockdown would be "disastrous" for the economy

The Times' leader asks whether the prime minister is on the side of libertarians or those who advocate strict lockdowns - as it accuses him of ducking difficult choices.

It argues the chaos surrounding testing and the condemnation of the Internal Market bill has led even Mr Johnson's supporters to question whether he is up to the job.

The paper says part of the problem lies in what it says is his "notorious inattention to detail" - and it calls on him to strengthen his cabinet.

Testing saga

The Times paints a picture of "chaos" and "inefficiency" in the government "Lighthouse Labs", which process most of the tests for Covid 19.

It has heard from a scientist who toured the facilities and was - in his words - "appalled" by what he saw.

He describes how they've failed to set up automatic processes - and says they're using 20 different types of tube for swabs.

The Department of Health says many of the claims are false and inaccurate and points out capacity is at one million tests a week - its highest ever level.

Yet the Sun thinks the testing system has collapsed - and it is unsparing when it comes to the woman in charge, Dido Harding.

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Image caption,
Baroness Harding is chair of NHS Test and Trace

It labels her "Baroness Bungle" after she told MPs yesterday that scientific modelling had underestimated the demand created by schools reopening.

"Why not use common sense?" asks the paper before adding: "Bugs always spread like wildfire when the autumn term starts".

The Daily Mail's sketch-writer, Henry Deedes, describes her as the "velveteen buck passer in pearl earrings" for the way she tried to blame "the pesky scientists".

But for Quentin Letts in the Times, she was composed in the face of "pie-pelting parliamentarians", seeing off her detractors with a straight bat.

The Daily Mail leads with a warning from former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt that blunders on maternity wards are costing the NHS nearly £1bn a year.

It says the cost of litigation and compensation - following poor care of mothers and babies - is almost twice the combined pay of all the labour doctors in England's hospitals.

Writing in the paper, Mr Hunt criticises the way that lawyers immediately get involved when tragedies happen - hindering the health service's ability to learn from mistakes.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Joe Biden - who will go up against Donald Trump in November's US election - features in Friday's papers

The warning from the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, that he won't allow peace in Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit is picked up by several papers.

The political editor of the i newspaper, Nigel Morris, thinks the remarks are "ominous" for the UK in its pursuit of a trade agreement with the US.

The Sun describes Mr Biden as "doddery" and "clueless" and calls for him to grasp Britain's case as well as the EU's.

The Telegraph feels the comments suggest "Anglo-American" relations under Mr Biden may be chillier - saying that whatever Donald Trump's faults, he has never shied always from proclaiming his commitment to the UK.

Lost cash

And it is worth having a ferret down the back of the sofa, before you sit down, according to the Times.

That's because the National Audit Office has found that at least £50bn worth of banknotes have disappeared from circulation - the equivalent of more than £1,000 for each adult in the country.

Plenty of reasons are given for the missing money.

They include people hiding cash under the mattress because of low savings rates - to it being taken overseas by criminal gangs or tax evaders.