THE newspapers were largely united in their condemnation of the test and trace system for Covid 19 as the schools returned south of the border.

The Daily Mail

Andrew Pierce said the testing ‘fiasco’ was threatening to shut down hundreds of schools.

The deafening question, he said, was ‘what is the test-and-trace tsar Baroness Dido Harding doing about the crisis?’

“There has been barely a trace of her. The former businesswoman, who was appointed in a blaze of publicity in May, has apparently largely gone AWOL,” he said. “She has not been seen in television studios nor gracing our airwaves to explain what has gone wrong. Instead, she has left the Health Secretary Matt Hancock to face the flak.”

He said Hancock had admitted Covid tests will have to be rationed for the general public to ensure frontline workers can get tested.

“This is despite Boris Johnson in June pledging a ‘world-beating’ service with all test results turned round within 24 hours,” he added. “The crisis in testing dominated Prime Minister’s questions yesterday.”

He said Harding - in charge of the ‘new’ Public Health England; the National Institute for Health Protection - had locked herself away, according to a source.

“‘The real priority should be getting on the front foot of test and trace but we can’t prise her out of her hideaway,’ the source said.”

“She joined NHS Improvement, a body that oversees NHS trusts, for which she was paid £62,000 for a three day week,” he said.”When the Commons’ committee on health examined her appointment, it remarked on her ‘complete lack of experience’ of health issues. Since she is up before a select committee today, perhaps she’ll explain why she has lost control of the test and trace system.”

The Guardian

Aidtya Chakrabortty said a friend and his wife had been phoning for two days to try and secure a Covid test for their sick child ‘with almost nothing to show for it.’

“All they are offered is a 120-mile round trip to Gatwick ­– a long drive for a feverish child,” he said. “Similar stories are unfolding across the country this month. Westminster columnists may huff and puff about the rule of international law, but at the school gates people are furious about self-isolating for days on end and losing pay while waiting for the all-clear.”

He said there had been an utter collapse of what the Prime Minister had called a “world-beating”, “superlative” test-and-trace regime.

“Trust in a government seeps away when hundreds queue up in Bury for up to five hours for a test,” he said. “Faith in the fairness of a scheme dwindles when a nurse in the south-west of England drives his daughter 50 miles for a booking – only to find they haven’t been sent the right QR code; oh, and the next available slot is in Dundee.”

He said tens of billions of pounds had been poured into test and trace and the reason it was failing was because the majority of expertise had been sidelined.

“The system that is labelled “NHS test and trace” has hardly anything to do with the NHS,” he pointed out. “Each fragment of this system is contracted out to big private companies that often turn to subcontractors.”

He said Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings were chancers with ‘no imagination, nor any idea of how to mobilise its resources. Their main skill is looting it for money to give their mates in the private sector, while blaming it for their own fatal mess.”

The Express

Leo McKinstry said the Government’s promise to create a world beating testing system by the end of June remained conspicuously unfulfilled.

“Mounting chaos now reigns as the demand for tests far exceeds the capacity to provide or process them,” he said. “Rising rates of infections, the return of schools and the reopening of the economy have all contributed to this dramatic increase in pressure, which has caused the system to buckle.”

He said even when tests were carried out, there were delays in analysis due to bottlenecks at the processing laboratories due to staff and equipment shortages.

“Classes at school have to be shut down, care homes are threatened once again, a proper return to work becomes impossible and there is no hope of lifting restrictions,” he said.

“The Government is clearly responsible for this unfolding shambles. Ministers have consistently over-promised and under-delivered.”