Newspaper headlines: 'Pingdemic' hits supermarkets and NHS pay 'insult'

By BBC News

Image source, PA Media

The papers are dominated by talk of food shortages and the "pingdemic".

The Times says supermarkets have apologised for the lack of goods in their stores because of strains on their supply chains caused by staff and delivery drivers self-isolating.

It says Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury's have all admitted problems. It is described as a "perfect storm" of depot staff, shop assistants, delivery drivers and food production staff all caught up in enforced absences.

The Daily Mail pictures empty shelves and urges the prime minister to act on what it says is a "shocking toll" of the "pingdemic".

It reports that shoppers around the country were unable to buy meat, vegetables and other fresh produce on Wednesday.

The Mail says as many as 1.7 million workers are in quarantine - and points out the prime minister, the chancellor, health secretary, and the Labour leader are among them.

The Sun says stores are at "tipping point" and have warned Boris Johnson he has 48 hours to fix the situation or shoppers will face much wider shortages.

The Metro captures the story with its headline "shelf isolation".

The i examines the much wider impact of infections and work absences, including for retail, transport, tourism and manufacturing.

It says NHS staff absences have risen nearly 60% in 10 days and that figures suggest disruption will leap in the next fortnight. It also claims the police force is running on "overtime and goodwill", with non-emergency calls downgraded.

It adds that tourism bosses are warning they may have to close some museums, swimming pools and heritage sites.

The Daily Mirror leads on the 3% pay rise for NHS staff, with its front page asking: "Is that all they are worth?"

Its main article describes "exhausted medics facing a fresh insult" after a year of "immense toil and sacrifice". Its Voice of the Mirror column calls health staff "saints in scrubs" and argues they deserve better.

The Guardian reports that nurses are likely to reject the award as too low and are considering strike action.

It says other health unions will also ballot members over possible industrial action. Ministers stressed they have accepted, in full, the recommendations of two independent pay review bodies.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Nurses called for a bigger pay increase during a protest outside Parliament on Wednesday

An investigation by the Times says hundreds of registered sex offenders have changed their identity to avoid revealing their criminal history - putting children at risk of serious harm.

The paper says in the most serious cases men barred for life from working with children had used their new name to gain employment in schools and homes.

Boris Johnson's plans for vaccine passports are facing collapse, according to the Daily Telegraph. It reports that Labour has indicated it would oppose the measure for everyday access to venues as "costly, open to fraud and impractical".

The Telegraph says at least 42 Conservative MPs are opposed to Covid certificates for general use - and a rebellion on that scale could be enough to stop it being passed in the Commons.

And many of the papers carry a photo of the smiling Prince George on his eighth birthday.

Though some are in close-up, in wider shots he is sitting on the bonnet of a Land Rover - a vehicle loved by his great-grandfather, Prince Phillip. The Sun declares him "prince charming".