THE Government's 'whack-a-mole approach' and confusion caused by the northern lockdown and plans for all NHS consultations to be held online were the issues discussed by columnists and contributors in the newspapers.

The Guardian

Devi Sridhar, professor and chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said the latest lockdown affecting four million people was 'entirely predictable' and an indication of what is to come.

"While it might be an effective way to stop the spread of the infection once it has got out of hand, the government's whack-a-mole approach will slowly strangle the economy," she said. "To fix this, the government needs to look six to eight months ahead and make a clear plan for how to best get through this crisis with the least loss of life, the healthiest possible economy and the least overwhelmed health service."

She said it was crucial to do this before winter hits and said there were tough decisions ahead.

"We can either have our daily lives back with borders largely closed, or we can have free movement and constant outbreaks," she said.

Of the 846 new infections announced on Thursday in the UK, only 34 came from Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

"Since Scotland started pursuing an 'elimination' strategy, infections declined and are now estimated to be seven to 10 times fewer per capita than in England," she added. "Current modelling estimates 10 to 30 daily new infections in Scotland versus 2,800 new infections per day in England."

But, she said, until all countries in the UK attempt the elimination strategy we can't succeed. "The government owes it to the people of Greater Manchester and beyond to find a better way," she said.

The Independent

Sean O'Grady is one of those in the new lockdown areas and said it felt 'a bit odd' to feel nostalgia for the early days of lockdown back in March and April.

"When the national lockdown was announced, there was a simple message," he said. "People got on with it and compliance was high. This time we get a clip of Matt Hancock standing in the dark in the street telling millions of people - all of Greater Manchester, Bradford, Leicester and other places - that they're being shut down, sort of. No press briefing; no Chris Whitty; no Commons statement with questions; no sombre TV address."

He said that, right now, nobody understands what?s going on.

"We know only for sure, in other words, what information we lack to try and get through this. And there's a lot of missing information," he added. "So Boris and his team have messed up again. It looks like they couldn't come to a rapid decision, hence the late night meetings, and when they did finally come to a decision they rushed out to tell us what it was before they understood the consequences."

He asked how, if people weren't following the rules in the first place, how new, confusing ones would change that.

"We know that things are going to get worse, because the hard lessons of February and March haven't yet been learned. No minister has lost their job or been publicly rebuked for their misjudgements or incompetence. And who is going to sack Boris Johnson?2

The Daily Express

Ross Clark questioned the new announcement by Health Secretary Matt Hancock that all NHS consultations should be held online 'unless there is a compelling clinical reason not to'.

He agreed that technology should be embraced where it enhances lives - such as no longer having to queue in the Post Office to pay your car tax, he said - but pointed out that 'people with most need of seeing a doctor are elderly, disabled of chronically ill - the very people who can struggle most with computers and smartphones.'

"Government ministers have sometimes been seen puzzling over Zoom calls. What do they think it is like for a 90-year-old with arthritis?," he asked.

There is also the issue that there were 21,000 'extra' reported deaths during lockdown because people failed to access medical care by other methods, he said.

“Much of Hancock’s speech yesterday was dedicated to telling NHS workers that they should not be afraid to use their own initiative rather than just following preset rules,” he said.

“Why, then, is he trying to lay down how GPs should hold consultations rather than let them and patients decide what works best for them?”