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Newspaper headlines: Chaos or freedom? Lockdown roadmap divides papers

Newspaper headlines: Chaos or freedom? Lockdown roadmap divides papers thumbnail

Image caption “Boris keeps handbrake on” is how the Daily Mail describes the prime minister’s televised address on Sunday night, in which he outlined “the first sketch” of an exit from the coronavirus lockdown – including the possibility of reopening shops and primary schools in England next month. From Wednesday, people will be allowed unlimited…

The Daily Mail front page 11 May

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“Boris keeps handbrake on” is how the Daily Mail describes the prime minister’s televised address on Sunday night, in which he outlined “the first sketch” of an exit from the coronavirus lockdown – including the possibility of reopening shops and primary schools in England next month. From Wednesday, people will be allowed unlimited outdoor exercise and can drive to do so, as well as playing sport with household members and sunbathe in local parks. But the paper says Mr Johnson is “ready to slam on the brakes again at any moment” if there is a surge in new cases of the virus.

The Times front page 11 May

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The Times pictures the prime minister with clenched firsts as he addressed the nation. Political sketch writer Quentin Letts says the “only real alleviation of the national imprisonment” was being allowed sit in local parks in the sun “or in the rain, this being Britain”. Letts adds that apart from a “couple of distinctive Boris touches”, it was a “flourish-free address, its seriousness striking”.

The Daily Telegraph front page 11 May

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The Daily Telegraph’s Camilla Tominey writes that the address “left more questions than it answered”, offering the public a “slither of light at the end of the tunnel but no ETA”. Despite his “infectious bravura”, she adds there was “still a sense that all of this had come too little too late, the overcautious approach seemingly borne out of a desire to not to repeat the catastrophic mistakes that got us into this mess in the first place”.

The Sun front page 11 May

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“Ready, Steady, Slow” is the Sun’s take on Mr Johnson’s “cautious” address, with the paper reporting his warning that it would be “madness” to lift restrictions too quickly and risk a second spike of coronavirus infections.

The Daily Express front page 11 May

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Exit from the lockdown will happen “in baby steps”, according to the Daily Express. It reports Mr Johnson set out a “slow and gradual” plan towards reopening society over the next three months.

The Metro front page 11 May

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“It’s all Greek to us, Boris” is the Metro’s response to the lockdown roadmap unveiled by Mr Johnson – who it says often quotes Greek classical scholars. It adds the new “stay alert” slogan has sparked “confusion”, and quotes Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who criticised the latest advice as “vague and imprecise”.

The Guardian front page 11 May

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The Guardian says the PM’s speech was “immediately condemned as being divisive, confusing and vague”. The paper reports his decision to change the “stay at home” slogan to “stay alert” was “met with a chorus of disapproval” from the leaders of devolved nations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. It also quotes Labour leader Keir Starmer, who criticised the lack of “necessary guidance” for those encouraged to return to work on Monday.

The Daily Mirror front page 11 May

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“Lockdown Britain: It’s Chaos” is the headline in the Daily Mirror which, like other papers, criticises the new rules for England as “confusing”, with the paper saying critics derided the speech for containing no advice for the over-70s.

The Financial Times front page 11 May

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The Financial Times also leads with Mr Johnson’s speech. One cabinet minister told the paper there was an “important underlying message” in the PM’s address, that “those that can go to work now should, provided they can maintain social distancing”.

The i front page 11 May

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“PM sends millions back to work” is the headline on the i’s front page, which reports that secondary schools in England will remain closed until September.

The Daily Star front page 11 May

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“Boz the builder” is the Daily Star’s nod to the PM’s address, who is pictured on its front page in a yellow hard hat. Weather is the subject of its main story as it reports Britain is set to be “Mr Blobbied” by a “cool blob” weather system that will see us shivering “in the coldest June to August for five years”.

The Sun is frustrated by what it sees as the prime minister’s failure to be more bold in easing the coronavirus restrictions.

Under the headline: “Lockdown’s been a terrible mistake”, columnist Trevor Kavanagh, describes as “feeble” Boris Johnson’s message of “stay alert, control the virus, save lives”.

“This is a prime minister paralysed by indecision,” he writes, “kicking himself for unforced errors, terrified of being blamed for every new death”.

The Daily Telegraph’s leader is more sympathetic. “The lockdown cannot continue for ever,” it says, “and all the prime minister is urging people to do is use their common sense.”

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PA Media

But it also suggests that Mr Johnson could have gone further – perhaps lifting restrictions in parts of the UK less seriously affected by Covid-19.

A piece by the political sketch writer, Quentin Letts, features on the front of the Times. He thinks the address had a “daunting air” – pointing out that Mr Johnson spoke “with his hands clenched in emphasis”. But he concludes that those hoping for a list of lifted restrictions would be disappointed.

‘Confusing and potentially catastrophic’

The Guardian’s lead headline is: “PM’s lockdown release leaves Britain confused and divided“. Its columnist, Simon Jenkins, seeks to explain why. “Boris Johnson says we can be a little less careful, while still being extremely careful,” he writes. “What that means remains unclear”.

The Mirror has a similar assessment of the decision to downgrade the “stay at home” message to “stay alert” – calling it “confusing and potentially catastrophic”.

A behavioural expert tells the paper that the new slogan “may be taken as a green light by many not to stay at home – and begin socialising with friends and other activities that increase the risk of transmission”.

The Financial Times reports that the government is considering the formation of a permanent reserve force of medics to support the NHS. It would work in the same way that military reservists bolster the armed forces.

It says the idea came about because the call for retired NHS staff to return to the front line and fight Covid-19 was so successful. The FT has been told that the initiative has the support of both Downing Street and the Department of Health.

Football’s ‘dirty tricks’

Several papers look ahead to the Premier League’s discussions about how to finish the football season, with the Guardian calling it a “week of chaos”. It says clubs are divided between those which want to resume playing as soon as possible – and those concerned about the health implications, and the conditions under which matches would be played.

The i reports on the annual Dorset Knob-eating contest.

For the uninitiated, Dorset Knobs are a type of savoury biscuit, shaped like a small bun and renowned for their hardness. They’re traditionally soaked in sweet tea before being eaten, and were said to be a favourite of the novelist, Thomas Hardy.

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Dorset Tea

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Winner Kate Scott ate eight and a half of the biscuits to win the annual competition

The i reports that the competition – in which the biscuits are eaten dry – had to be held online because of the lockdown. This year’s winner was Kate Scott – who managed to eat eight and a half.

Finally, the Times celebrates the fact that an abandoned dock – on the river Roach in Essex – has been given protected status, because it was where Charles Darwin’s ship, HMS Beagle, was dismantled.

The paper’s leader reveals that an observation platform will be built there. Passers-by, it says, “will no doubt welcome the chance to transport themselves, if only for a moment in their minds’ eye, from the mudflats of Essex to the Galapagos Islands”.

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