MIXED messages, confusion over leadership and hungry children were the Covid-related issues debated by columnists and contributors in the newspapers yesterday.

The Guardian

Imogen West-Knights said the scale of mixed messages from the Government was making it difficult ‘to resist the urge to crescendo directly into a full-throated scream on getting out of bed in the morning.’

“Go to the pub, but don’t come into contact with other people. Only meet in groups of six, but also sit in a restaurant with 30 other diners. Go to your office, but don’t go by public transport,” she said. “According to a June YouGov poll of 27 countries, Britons had the second lowest level of confidence in their government’s handling of the pandemic.”

She said the level of trust in those making the decisions dictated whether or not people would follow their advice so it was a ‘pretty huge problem.’

“The government can’t go from having said that nobody should leave their homes when the infection rates were rocketing in April to saying that you should get on a packed train to engineer a reunion with your colleagues’ coffee breath when the infection rates are climbing again at a similar rate,” she said. “If it was dangerous then, it’s dangerous now.”

She pointed out that there was a balance to achieve between stopping the economy tanking, allowing some small freedoms and protecting the most vulnerable.

“But scattergun messaging isn’t getting us anywhere, except knee-deep in the worst recession of all the G7 nations and unforgivably high death tolls,” she said. “If the advice from the government continues to be this conflicting, the easiest thing for people to do will be to trust their own instincts to protect those around them.”

The Express

Sir Bernard Ingham said friends were phoning him in his ‘Covid-shielded existence’ demanding to know ‘who the hell is running Britain?’

“The imposition of the rule of six – at least in England - raises the question as to whether the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has Cabinet government any more – or, if it does, whether it is worth a row of beans with Nicola Sturgeon posturing in Edinburgh,” he said. “On the evidence of the “rule of six” it has indeed gone by the board, with Michael Gove, no doubt in league with Dominic Cummings, identified as persuading Boris to ignore the Cabinet.”

He said the Government may have ensured the NHS coped with the pandemic ‘in it bumbling way.’

“But that has been only at the expense of thousands upon thousands of patients whose investigation and treatment of often terminal illnesses has gone by the board,” he added. “This is no way to run an essential public service. The reckoning had yet to come.”

He said it raised questions about the quality of the advice coming from quangos and the civil service - ‘depleted by 10 years of cuts and pay restraint and now demoralised by Cummings’ attack on the system.’

“Government communications are currently so abysmally complicated and inconsistent that no wonder my friends’ are asking “Who the hell is running Britain?”

The Daily Record

The paper’s leader column said that even more families face having children going hungry to school because of the Tories’ unwillingness to extend the furlough period.

“Scottish teachers have reported a huge increase in the number of pupils going to school hungry,” it pointed out. “In poorer areas of the country, it’s as high as 40 per cent. To say this is unacceptable in modern Scotland is an understatement.”

It said it was ‘heartbreaking’ to think of thousands of children sitting hungry in classes.

“The situation could get much worse when the job retention scheme ends,” it said. “Teachers fear that even greater numbers of children will begin the school day without breakfast.”

The paper said schemes like Silence the Rumble made all the difference, by providing breakfasts for everyone so eliminating any stigma.

“As Manchester United star Marcus Rashford, who has campaigned in England for free school meal vouchers, says: “No child can engage and sustain concentration on an empty stomach. But just like the explosion of foodbanks, it is a tragedy that these sort of schemes are needed at all.”