The Daily Telegraph carries the first report in a series of investigative stories it is calling “The Lockdown Files”. The paper says it has obtained 100,000 leaked WhatsApp messages between the former health secretary, Matt Hancock, and other officials during the height of the pandemic. It says they reveal Mr Hancock decided against advice to test all residents going into care homes in England for Covid. A spokesperson for Mr Hancock has called the report an “outrageous” and “distorted” account of the pandemic, spun to fit what they call an “anti-lockdown agenda”.
The Telegraph also features commentary from Isabel Oakeshott – the journalist who leaked the messages. She obtained them while helping Mr Hancock write his book, Pandemic Diaries. Ms Oakeshott – who has been critical of lockdowns – says she is sharing the trove because she believes the official Covid inquiry is taking too long and that there needs to be a more urgent examination of how official decisions about Covid were made. She claims the messages reveal turmoil within Number 10 and a shift to what she calls “lockdown zealotry”.
The Guardian headlines with a report by the Commons public accounts committee, which has found that NHS England’s three-year plan to reduce backlogs caused by the pandemic is already failing to meet its targets. The paper quotes the report as saying the recovery programme is based on “unrealistic assumptions”.
Downing Street has suggested the new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland is not open to negotiation, according to the Times. The paper has been told the Democratic Unionist Party faces a straight choice between accepting it or not. And the Daily Express reports that business leaders are predicting a boost to the UK’s struggling economy on the back of the deal.
In the Telegraph, Lord Frost – who helped negotiate the current protocol – writes that EU law “remains supreme” under the new agreement, calling it a “bitter pill to swallow”, but adding that he doesn’t mean the deal shouldn’t go ahead.
The Daily Mail leads with the police search for the missing baby of the runaway aristocrat Constance Marten and her partner Mark Gordon. The paper says officers fear the child has come to harm, but the Metro says police are still holding out hope that the newborn is safe and well.
A number of the papers feature a picture of a laughing Princess of Wales beating Prince William in a spin class challenge. “Princess of wheels’, quips the Daily Mirror, the Express captions the picture: “Pedal power!”
And the Financial Times has a picture of what could become the UK’s most expensive home. It says estate agents are looking to sell the London mansion – set in four acres of Regent’s Park – for as much as £250m, which would break the previous record of £210m. The paper’s sources say the 200-year-old villa was repossessed after its Saudi Arabian owners defaulted on a loan.