image caption“Race to trace mutant strain” is the headline on the front of the Daily Mail, one of several papers to lead on the door-to-door testing plan targeting the coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa. The paper calls the goal of testing 80,000 people a “frantic bid” to head off a potential threat to the UK’s mass vaccination campaign.
image captionMetro also focuses on the “test blitz”, saying at least 11 people have tested positive for the variant in the last week, despite having no travel links to South Africa. The paper quotes Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying it is a “stark reminder that our fight against this virus isn’t over yet”.
image captionThe “sprint” to test tens of thousands of people will involve squads of health officials, firefighters and volunteers to deliver and collect test kits, the Guardian says. The paper quotes Public Health England saying this variant is more transmissible and that vaccine responses are “diminished” although still effective.
image captionThe Daily Mirror says a “hunt” is on to find potential “hidden spreaders”, quoting Mr Hancock saying: “This is so important so we can break the chains of the transmission of this variant.”
image captionWarnings from government scientific advisers two weeks ago that only mandatory hotel quarantine would prevent the spread of new variants are the focus of the Times’ front page, as it reports on the testing efforts over the South Africa strain. The paper says public health officials believe there are hundreds of cases in addition to the 11 detected.
image captionA more optimistic headline – “PM pushes to reopen schools as cases fall” – leads the Daily Telegraph. The paper says Boris Johnson has ordered ministers to “ramp up” preparations for bringing pupils back to the classroom after chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty said the UK had passed the peak of infections. It adds that over-65s will be invited for vaccinations from next week, a sign the government expects to meet its February deadline.
image captionVaccinations are also the focus of the i newspaper front page, which says millions of people who have already had the vaccine will get a booster to offer greater protection against the South African variant.
image caption“What a result!” declares the Daily Express, which says the UK’s orders of vaccines have now grown by 40 million to 407 million. It says the country is lining up supplies for a potential annual Covid vaccination campaign, with enough to last until 2025.
image captionThe Sun’s headline sums up the situation as “The good, the jab and the ugly”, saying that cases are at their lowest rate since Christmas (“the good”), that one in seven people have received a vaccine dose (“the jab”) and describing a “blitz” on the South Africa variant (“the ugly”).
image captionMeanwhile, the lead story in the Financial Times covers the fall-out from amateur traders betting against hedge funds and causing a surge in the stocks of “previously little-loved” companies such as video game retailer Gamestop. The paper says online broker Robinhood, used by many of the amateurs, has had to raise $2.4bn to shore up its finances, as the clearing houses where stocks and options are processed demand bigger deposits amid the market turbulence.
image captionAnd the Daily Star warns any readers of a sensitive disposition to look away from its front page if they are eating breakfast, after printing a mocked-up image of Boris Johnson shirtless on the beach. “Are you beach body ready?” the paper asks, as it reports the prime minister is optimistic that people will be able to go on summer holidays this year. Two staples of recent Daily Star front pages – Dominic Cummings and a giant seagull – can also be seen in the paper’s fictional beach scene.