NHS reform, vaccine fears and calls for an independent public inquiry were the issues raised by columnists and contributors in the newspapers.
Andrew Grice said ministers were using the pandemic as an excuse to justify plans to reform the NHS.
“A leaked white paper is littered with references to learning lessons from the crisis,” he said. “But I remember well that the key suggested change – handing the health secretary command and control powers over NHS England’s operations rather than merely setting an annual strategy – was already planned before the outbreak.”
He said ministers were claiming privately the pandemic has shown the weaknesses of “the state” as if it was ‘totally separate from their government, and nothing to do with 10 years of Tory austerity.’
“MPs should find a way to look at how the government repeatedly struggled to strike a balance between heath and the economy and fell between both stools,” he said. “It is still happening, as illustrated by a hotel quarantine scheme which stops short of covering all UK arrivals. Another messy compromise which probably won’t work.”
Peter English, a former family doctor, and current consultant in public health, said news that the vaccine was less effective against the South African variant was causing concern but we needed to be clear about the detail.
“While the current vaccine has less efficacy against the South African variant, it offers only slightly less protection when used on the variant first identified in Kent,” he said. “And it is still thought to be likely that the vaccine will protect against serious disease caused by the South African variant. This is an important detail. “
He said even if vaccines weren’t perfect against all variants, we need to go ‘full steam ahead ‘and vaccinate as many people as possible to prevent serious illness and deaths from Covid-19.
“Once we have reduced the number of hospitalisations and deaths, we can then focus on suppressing infection, transmission and mild-to-moderate cases of the disease.”
The Daily Express
Jayne Connery, founder of Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, said they were the first to call for an inquiry into the Government’s decision to transfer untested Covid-positive pensioners from hospitals into care homes.
“The scandal of no visits, the ludicrous idea of “window visits” and the plight of pensioners dying alone, with no one to hold their hand, can be traced back to that decision,” she said. “We accept the majority of care professionals have done absolutely sterling work during this pandemic and under extreme pressure.
“But we say there needs to be an independent public inquiry to examine the treatment of our vulnerable care home residents and make sure the same mistakes could not happen again.”