As swine flu takes increasing hold it will be interesting to see how the national papers’ coverage of the pandemic begins to diverge.
This week The Daily Telegraph and Daily Star were among those reporting that people contracting the illness would automatically get two weeks off work, while the Evening Standard and Daily Mail were among those following up The Times’ story of a leaked memo from a “senior health service executive” warning of “muddled” planning and crisis measures.
As H1N1 claimed the life of its first healthy victim, chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson tried to urge the public not to panic. But that didn’t stop the Daily Star running his comments under the headline: “Doomsday - health chief warns of new killer virus.”
All the papers focused on the government’s vaccination plans, although they didn’t seem to agree on which number was most important. The Sunday Times said “everyone” would get the vaccine, while the Mail highlighted the 20 million who would have it by Christmas.
The News of the World was more inventive, running its story under the headline “Flu jailbirds guaranteed to get drugs”, although the story did not actually say that, and the Prison Service appeared to deny that prisoners get different healthcare from anyone else.
However, it was The Independent that found the angle no one else had thought of: a day by day account of Sir Liam’s week. Guess what: swine flu took up most of his time! But we also learnt that he’s a Bob Dylan fan, and who he had dinner with, all useful stuff to your average reader.
Away from swine flu, the Mail on Sunday had a diary piece about Andy Burnham ironing in his underwear “in front of a full-length window with the curtains open” - and a photographer on the other side. Will we be seeing our new health secretary in Heat?