Newspaper headlines: 'Tough curbs for months' and '1 in 50 have virus'

By BBC News

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Coronavirus developments dominate Wednesday's headlines.

The Guardian warns of "tough curbs for months", quoting the prime minister's acknowledgment that the plan to emerge from the national lockdown in mid-February was subject to "lots of caveats, lots of ifs".

The Financial Times says "Britain faces long haul out of crisis". The Sun has the stark headline "1 in 50 has Covid"; while the Metro hones in on the capital's predicament saying "one in 30 has virus in London".

The Daily Mirror claims Boris Johnson's late lockdown "could spark 20,000 deaths this month"; the Daily Express focuses on Mr Johnson's "optimism and fundamental hope" that "things will be very different in the spring"; while the Daily Mail warns "Covid curbs may be back next winter".

The front page of the Times is dominated by a stark picture showing two lone figures walking over an otherwise deserted Millennium Bridge in central London yesterday. The paper says Britain has become "a land of ghost cities".

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The Daily Star laments the return of lockdown and panic-buying - exclaiming "Shove your Dry January!"

The Daily Telegraph suggests an offer from High Street pharmacies to roll out more than a million doses of the Oxford vaccine every week has been "snubbed by ministers".

Simon Dukes, a senior industry leader, has told the paper there's "an army of thousands of pharmacists up and down the country who administer the flu jab every winter". He continues: "We've been telling the NHS that we're ready, willing and desperate to help, but we've been met by a de facto silence."

The i focuses on vaccine hubs, saying they'll open in sports stadiums and exhibition centres next week.

The Times carries a suggestion from a Conservative MP that retired teachers and Ofsted inspectors should check pupils' GCSE and A-level work to ensure the right grades are given this summer.

Robert Halfon, who's the chairman of the education select committee, told the paper that independent assessors and human moderators - rather than algorithms - should be used to avoid last summer's results fiasco.

The i stresses the PM "is unable to guarantee that children can return to school before summer holidays".

Medical cannabis supply

The Guardian highlights the plight of a mother who fears her nine-year-old son could die, after finding out his supply of vital cannabis medication from the Netherlands has been stopped - because of Brexit.

Hannah Deacon's campaign in 2017 to save the life of Alfie Dingley - who has severe epilepsy - led to changes allowing the drug to be prescribed in the UK. She says ministers have told her that while they understand her concern, they can't do anything. "Well, let me tell them, it is not concerning, it is terrifying."

Other papers report that dozens more children are in a similar position.

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The Voice of the Mirror calls on Boris Johnson to step aside, saying the high loss of lives and livelihoods in this crisis - due in part to his mishandling of it - will never be forgiven.

It says the government's "dreadful record" in handling the pandemic deserves "a day of political reckoning in the near future".

John Crace in the Guardian criticises what he says was the prime minister's failure in his news conference to talk about "the implications of another lockdown on people's lives" and "how he came to take the decision and the mistakes made along the way".

He suggests the PM "likes to talk a lot about levelling up" but appears unable "to level with himself and the country".

The Daily Mail columnist, Sarah Vine - a mother of GCSE and A-level pupils - asks why children are "paying the price for the virus".

Faced with the closure of schools and libraries and the absence of friends and sports activities, she says exams were the "one thing keeping them motivated".

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