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Newspaper headlines: Hospital patients 'sent to hotels' and jab rollout concerns

By BBC News

image copyrightEPA
image captionMembers of staff prepare to vaccinate people at the Millennium Point centre in Birmingham

The Guardian reports that thousands of hospital patients are set to be discharged early to hotels or even care homes, to free up beds for the most seriously ill Covid patients.

The paper says a negative test will not always be required for a patient to be discharged to a care home, as long as they have been in isolation for 14 days with no new symptoms.

It says the owners of the Best Western hotel chain have already started taking in Covid-positive patients from King's College Hospital at its hotel in Croydon in south London - and they could end up providing 5,000 beds.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the GP surgeries which have been most successful at rolling out the coronavirus vaccine are being "forced to slow down", to allow other parts of the country to catch up.

One doctor says by diverting jabs to mass vaccination hubs, ministers are "robbing Peter to pay Paul". Downing Street insists that doctors were not being told to slow down, but that areas that had fallen behind were being prioritised.

The i newspaper concludes from the official figures that the government's not on track to meet its pledge of inoculating 15 million at-risk people by mid-February.

Figures show 145,000 people received the jab in the past day, but the i says this figure needs to reach 350,000 a day, if the target is to be met.

In its top story, the Financial Times reports Boris Johnson clashed with NHS chiefs over the pace of the rollout. There were "tough" exchanges, it says, about why some non-frontline NHS staff got vaccinated before the over-80s.

Such tensions were denied by No 10, the FT says, and things have improved since. In a "sign of a new sense of urgency", the paper reports that Mr Johnson has approved a pilot for a vaccination centre to be open 24 hours a day.

Meanwhile, several of the newspaper sketchwriters take aim at yesterday's Downing Street news conference by Home Secretary Priti Patel - her first since May last year.

Whenever she was challenged on the detail on the lockdown restrictions, she would simply pronounce the "rules to be very clear", observes Michael Deacon of the Telegraph. He says she takes the art of avoiding a question to another level.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionMs Patel urged people to "play your part" and follow Covid rules

Quentin Letts of the Times notes there was no sign of Boris Johnson. Perhaps he was hiding in a wardrobe upstairs, he muses, worried that Ms Patel would "clap handcuffs on him" for taking that seven-mile cycle ride.

And in the Daily Mail, Henry Deedes observes how many Conservatives have balked "at the way we have quietly morphed into a police state over the past year".

But not Ms Patel, he says, "She loves it. Revels in it. All those people who have been complaining about park benches and playgrounds being taped up should count their blessings. If the home secretary had her way she'd have them all electrified".

'The British virus'

The Daily Telegraph says the World Health Organization is to rename coronavirus variants, to avoid stigmatising countries.

It reports the so-called UK variant has now been detected in around 46 countries, while a South African academic who led efforts to identify a new strain there complained his country was being "sanctioned for transparency".

Tory MPs have, according to the Mail, rounded on Angela Merkel, after she reportedly warned that if Germany didn't stop "this British virus", it would have "10 times the number of cases by Easter.

It says the Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen called her remarks "pathetic".

Meanwhile, as John Lewis suspends its 'click-and-collect' service, the Times' front page suggests the move could encourage other retailers to follow suit.

Many non-essential shops have offered click-and-collect during lockdown to help them stay afloat.

But after a "change in tone" from the government, John Lewis says it decided it wanted to help discourage unnecessary travel.

Free school meals

Photos of a food parcel, sent to families in lieu of free school meals, make several front pages.

The Metro quotes a child nutrition expert who called it an "insult to dignity" to provide food worth just £5, when it's supposed to be worth £30.

The Daily Mirror accuses providers of the food packages of "profiting from poverty".

And the FT reports one of England's largest academy chains, the Harris Federation, ended its contract with the provider of the food parcels, Chartwells, after being "appalled" by their poor quality. Chartwells says it will be providing larger packages from next week.

In the Guardian's opinion column, it says school dinners are not charity and "ministers must end these hunger games". It argues it would be "far preferable" to provide bumped-up child benefit or universal credit payments.

The Telegraph reports its proprietor, Sir David Barclay, has died at the age of 86.

In its obituary, it notes how he valued privacy and turned down many a request for an interview, saying it didn't appeal to him or his twin brother, Frederick, to boast of how clever or successful they were.

But it says Sir David had "an astute grasp of the political landscape", with one friend commenting he could "read the economic tea-leaves like few people of his generation".

The Times says Brexit really could put us in the fast lane - with a front page report that British drivers will escape most speeding fines in EU countries.

French officials have told it that a cross-border enforcement directive, under which speed camera information was shared, no longer applies.

It says France is set to lose out on up to £53m in fines a year, after 444,000 of us were caught on camera over there last year.

But we won't be able to "speed with impunity", it cautions, as French police could still stop us and levy on-the-spot fines.

And the Telegraph's back page reports that footballers are ignoring a new edict, issued by the Premier League, to avoid all "unnecessary contact" and stop embracing each other after goals.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe Premier League has reiterated that protocols include a ban on players shaking hands or hugging

There was even a shirt-swap last night between Everton and Wolves, it says, despite players being warned a so-called "snooper squad" would be monitoring breaches from the stands.

It says the Sheffield United manager, Chris Wilde, claims it's "unnatural" to stop players hugging.

The Times' leader column says "elite football is fortunate to be able to continue", and difficult though it may be, "a bit of restraint is the least fans might ask in return".

It argues "too much playing time is wasted by self-congratulation", and "more decorum would be welcome.