Tragic news forces coronavirus off the front pages

Theresa May – leading a back-bench revolt over quarantining at airports

Philip Evans: My Isolation Diary – Day 77 (Thursday June 4 2020)

 LIKE many others, I suspect, I have been waiting for the day when coronavirus was knocked off the front pages. But I did not think it would happen for a few weeks yet.

It would have to be a big story to relegate the government’s fight to beat the contagion to the inside pages – and indeed it was.

So big, in fact, that the Daily Mail dedicated their first ten pages to the news which broke last evening that police in Germany had sensationally named a suspect over the abduction of Madeleine McCann.

Madeleine went missing 13 years ago when she was two years-old and on holiday in Portugal with her parents, Gerry and Kate McCann.

The German police have revealed that a 43-year-old sex offender in prison in his homeland was being questioned about Madeleine’s disappearance.  It was the biggest breakthrough since Madeleine went missing.

The suspect, who has not been named, was renting a ramshackle farm building just two miles from the Portuguese resort of Praia de Luz where the McCanns were staying. Last night the German police said they were treating the case as a murder enquiry.

The story dominated the press back in 2007 for many months with the McCanns coming under great criticism for leaving such a young child alone in their holiday home whilst they enjoyed a meal and drinks in the complex. At one time they were even treated as suspects themselves.

If it is proved that the suspect was Madeleine’s killer, one can only hope that the McCanns can find some closure in the nightmare they have been living for the past 13 years.

The coronavirus was pushed even further back in the Mail with coverage of the anti-racism demonstrations in London over the dreadful death of George Floyd in the United States, headlined in the Mail “Day rage exploded in Britain” with two further pages of coverage.

Boris Johnson may think he’s got a few problems, but it’s nothing to the level of revulsion that a great swathe of Americans have for their President, Donald Trump. Can America really return such a person to the most powerful position in the world?

It was page 18 in the Daily Mail before the word coronavirus was mentioned and that came from columnist Dominic Sandbrook predicting that if Britain does not wake up soon from lockdown we face an economic apocalypse. Thanks for that.

Elsewhere there was a lovely full-page picture feature on how a mum of two, who is an NHS worker on the Covid-19 front line, was reunited with her daughters whom she had not seen for nine long weeks. This was covered extensively by television and brought a tear to many a hardened news presenter’s eye, a classic example of how much sacrifice our doctors and nurses have had to make.

The row still rumbles on over the government’s quarantine plans with former Prime Minister Theresa May leading a back-bench revolt urging Boris Johnson to abandoned the scheme. This is the first we have heard from Mrs May since the coronavirus started and she will no doubt relish giving Boris some of his own medicine.

The rebels have warned that a blanket requirement to self isolate for 14 days after flying into Britain will cost thousands of jobs in the UK’s tourism and aviation industries and it will show the world that Britain was closed.

According to Visit Britain, the 14-day quarantine will drive millions of visitors away and cost the tourism industry nearly £20 billion. They are calling for the summer season to be extended and have recommended introducing an extra Bank Holiday in October.

I was interested to see that Boris Johnson will now only be leading the Downing Street press briefings once a week and, because of falling audience figures, these events will not be held at the weekend. People have been turning off in their droves, not only at weekends, as the journalists get more irritable and the Ministers at the lectern more secretive.

Tomorrow will be my last daily blog during my isolation period which ends next week. Writing around 1,000 words a day for 70 days has been a challenge but has kept me focused trough these difficult days. I’ve tried to be positive throughout but I must admit there have been days when I’ve felt really low.

To compensate for losing so much advertising revenue in LymeOnline, we’ve taken on some additional journalistic work to keep our heads above water so it’s time to move on. I’ll say my thank-yous in my last blog tomorrow.

Not sure who said this, but it’s good advice “You’ve gotta know when it’s time to turn the page.”

Woodmead Halls
About Philip Evans 798 Articles
Veteran journalist and newspaper manager Philip Evans has worked in the publishing industry for more than half a century. He started out as a reporter for Pulman’s Weekly News as a young man and went on to work for an international publishing company in the UK, South Africa and Australia before returning to Lyme Regis where he is still reporting on local events as he has done for more than 53 years.

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