HOPES of a vaccine, free school meals for children and the threat of a turkey-free Christmas were the topics debated by columnists and contributors in the newspapers yesterday.

The Daily Express

Leo McKinstry said the sense of unity that existed in the UK in the spring, during the initial lockdown, had evaporated.

“Indeed, with Scotland and Wales adopting their own draconian policies, the very future of the United Kingdom feels in danger,” he said. “Yet amid all this gloom and discord, there is a real hope for the future. “The darkest hour is always just before the dawn,” wrote the 17th-century English theologian Thomas Fuller, and his words could well apply to our current grim predicament.”

However, he said, thanks to the ‘brilliant work’ of British scientists some people may get a vaccine before Christmas.

“Such a breakthrough could ultimately completely transform the management of the disease, rendering it far less of a menace, enabling the economy to re-open and allowing a return to some kind of normality,” he said. “The grounds for optimism were highlighted yesterday by the leak of a memo from the NHS to a Midlands hospital trust which was instructed to “be prepared to start a Covid-19 vaccination programme in early December”.

He said that judging by the outcome of rigorous trials, involving 20,000 volunteers, the jab was highly effective.

“Bristol University’s School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine found the “vaccine is doing everything we expected and that is only good news in our fight against the illness”,” he added. “In 1940 two Oxford scientists, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, were at the forefront of the development of penicillin, which changed the world.

“Now the university could be a global saviour again.”

The Independent

Charlotte Rushwell, a teacher in east London, asked how she could tell her pupils that 300 MPs had voted against providing free school meals in the holidays.

“The government can spare the cash for private firms, such as Serco, to be involved in the test and trace process but they can’t find the money to feed our country’s poorest children,” she said. “I have seen first-hand families who have struggled, well before the pandemic, as well as children who came to school just for the food they could access.”

She said she had sneaked fruit and biscuits into children’s bags to ensure they got something to eat at the end of the day.

“Yes, I know that free school meals are not provided normally during the holidays, but I think we can all agree that these are not normal times,” she added. “At any point, any one of us could fall on hard times, and what kind of society do we live in if we are unable to help people in their time of need?”

She said she doesn’t want to be part of a society where MPs can scoff a free lunch and children were going hungry.

“The government might not be willing to help, but this morning I have woken up to a Facebook feed full of restaurants, cafes and local charities willing to feed our children, and I couldn’t be prouder,” she said.

“Marcus Rashford has been given an honour for raising this issue and yet his plea to continue providing free meals during the holidays has been ignored. Shame on you parliament, not in my name.”

The Daily Mail

Robert Hardman said the British public had been tested to the limit during the pandemic with shortages of everything from loo rolls to baking products but had ‘muddled through’.

“Until now. For we may be fast approaching a shortage that really could do for this Government,” he said. “Indeed, I fear that the mere mention of it may be enough to incite public disorder. In short, two months from now, large parts of the country could be facing a Christmas with all the trimmings — but no turkey.”

He said a series of Covid related developments - including a shortage of migrant labour and people not eating out - meant demand was going one way and supply the other.

“This year all the indicators are that we are going to need many more birds from an industry which could be missing half its workforce,” he said. “The Government’s rule-of-six means that many families will want a smaller bird.

“A turkey-free Christmas? We may as well block up the chimney, leave the Christmas tree in the forest and tell the Queen not to bother come 3pm on December 25!”