The stand-off between the government and regional leaders in northern England over new coronavirus measures makes the lead for most of the front pages.
“Northern revolt”, is the Mirror’s headline. “Lockdown rebellion growing”, the i declares. For the Guardian, Downing Street’s key policy for tackling Covid-19 has “descended into chaos”. The Independent online paper says Boris Johnson’s three-tier strategy is unravelling after one of his top medical advisers said it would not work and a national lockdown was needed.
The Telegraph says the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, is in effect holding the government to ransom by demanding more financial help for businesses in return for supporting a move into the top tier of restrictions.
The Guardian reports that Thursday’s talks between regional leaders and a government minister designed to broker an agreement ended with bitter and angry exchanges, deepening a north-south rift.
According to the Manchester Evening News website, even the region’s Tory MPs supported the view of Mr Burnham and other local figures that too little funding was attached to the proposals.
The Daily Mail’s headline rejects the new measures in London and elsewhere in England as an “epidemic of madness” because of their effect on the economy.
It describes the extra restrictions as draconian, saying they have sparked a fresh crisis for struggling businesses. The paper’s editorial – taking up a full page – accuses ministers of surrendering to coronavirus and trying to impose a countrywide lockdown by stealth. “Where is the conclusive evidence these stringent crackdowns actually work?” it asks.
For its lead, the Times says an investigation by the paper has exposed a Russian disinformation campaign designed to undermine and spread fear about the vaccine being developed at Oxford University.
According to the paper, the crude theme is that the vaccine could turn people into monkeys because it uses a chimpanzee virus as a vector.
In response, the Russian embassy tells the paper the suggestion that Moscow would conduct any kind of propaganda against the vaccine is itself an example of disinformation – and obviously aimed at discrediting Russia’s efforts in combating the pandemic.
The Express highlights NHS figures showing there have been 26 million fewer visits to GP surgeries in England since the start of the pandemic than over the same period last year.
It says most patients have had to settle for a virtual or phone consultation. The paper’s leader writers urge the NHS not to let down its guard against legions of other potentially fatal diseases.
Finally, the Queen’s first public engagement outside a royal household since March attracts widespread attention.
Her visit to the national security laboratory at Porton Down is the main story for the Sun, which announces: “Queen out at last”.
“The Queen unmasked”, is the headline in the Metro – a reference to her decision not to wear a face covering.
The Telegraph says she returned to what she does best – meeting people, thanking unsung heroes and unveiling plaques. For the Express, the sight of the Queen out and about is timely – and will stiffen the backbone of the nation.
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