Newspaper headlines: Schools 'U-turn' and vaccine rollout 'revolt'

By BBC News

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Drive-through vaccination centres are among the ways people can get their coronavirus jab

As pressure grows on the government to speed up the availability of the coronavirus vaccine, the Times reports that the team behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab expects to supply two million doses each week by the middle of January.

The paper says members of the team have been "frustrated" by the pace of production so far - blaming the UK's "virtually non-existent manufacturing capacity" before the pandemic hit.

But the Daily Telegraph reports that AstraZeneca and Pfizer - which makes the other jab licensed for use - have both "hit back" at government claims of a vaccine shortage, insisting there is no problem with supply.

The Daily Mail focuses on GPs' concerns about the decision to delay giving patients a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which was made to allow more people to get their first jab sooner.

A spokesman for the Doctors' Association tells the paper that most of those affected are over 80 and have already made transport arrangements for their second appointment - so cancelling it "at such short notice will cause untold levels of anxiety".

In an editorial for the Mail, the 87-year-old Labour peer Dame Joan Bakewell says she's heard nothing about her booster jab - so has "no idea" when her life will go back to normal.

A picture of six ambulances queuing outside a London A&E department fills the front page of the i newspaper.

It says the number of coronavirus patients being admitted to hospitals across the UK every day could double by the end of the month to around 6,000.

Meanwhile, the Guardian talks of an escalating crisis, and says the Nightingale field hospital in east London is expected to start treating Covid cases next week for the first time since last spring.

Schools latest

"Another screeching U-turn" is how the Sun describes the education secretary's move to keep all primary schools closed in London for the next fortnight - because of concerns about the spread of Covid-19.

The Daily Mirror says Gavin Williamson confirmed the change "24 hours after insisting it was safe for schools in eight boroughs to open".

The Schools Week website calls the situation "chaotic", while the Daily Express highlights the "incredible pressures" facing parents as a result of the closures - which could continue until mid-February.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
During the first lockdown when schools were closed, many pupils had to learn at home

Meanwhile, "raving mad" is how the Daily Mirror describes the "hundreds of revellers" who ignored coronavirus restrictions to hold parties on New Year's Eve.

In its editorial, it says "their selfish behaviour was not just insulting to those who've spent months shielding but risks fuelling the spread" of the disease.

The Sun agrees, calling them "deadly dunces" whose "irresponsible delusion could cost someone else their life".

But the Daily Express praises "the vast majority of people" who obeyed the rules - and urges readers to stick with them and "get through this last gruelling chapter" of the pandemic.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Police - pictured here patrolling London on New Year's Eve - gave out dozens of fines to rule-breakers

The Prince of Wales has written in the Daily Telegraph to say he is seriously concerned about the impact the virus is having on cancer treatment.

In a comment piece for the paper, he says he fears the disease could become the "forgotten C" - with cancelled appointments and delayed operations causing "despair" for thousands of people.

The prince - who is the patron of Macmillan Cancer Support - adds that the virus has had a "devastating" effect on the charity's fundraising income, which is expected to fall by £175m over the next three years.

In another health story, an investigation by the Guardian has found that a record 6-million people in England were given antidepressants between July and September last year.

The paper suggests the figure has risen because access to mental health services has narrowed during the pandemic, while some patients have been reluctant to seek help to avoid putting extra pressure on the NHS.

Health officials tell the Guardian that online talking therapy sessions are now "rapidly increasing".

Away from Covid, figures obtained by the Daily Mail show that speed cameras on motorways now account for more than one in 10 speeding fines issued by police in England and Wales.

The paper says they've generated 253,000 penalties in the last 12 months - as more cameras are installed to monitor so-called "smart motorways", where speed limits vary depending on traffic conditions.

Motoring groups tell the Mail that the cameras are hard to see, and sometimes obscured by vegetation. Highways England insists they are "clearly signed" - and urges drivers to report any obstructions.

Meanwhile, several papers look ahead to a band of severe wintry weather in the next two weeks that has been dubbed a new "beast from the east".

The Daily Star says parts of central Scotland can expect half a metre of snow on Tuesday, while temperatures on Wednesday may plummet to -10C.