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Live Reporting

Edited by Chris Clayton and Rob Corp

All times stated are UK

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  1. That's all for today

    Thanks for joining our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Today's writers were Becky Morton, Alex Kleiderman, Kate Whannel, Lauren Turner and Ella Wills. The editors were Chris Clayton and Rob Corp.

    We'll be back tomorrow morning with more updates from the UK and around the world.

  2. What's the latest in the UK?

    Surge testing at The Mall in Cribbs Causeway

    And as Friday's coverage draws to a close, here's what you need to know this evening:

  3. Top stories from around the world

    As the live page team prepare to close up for the day, here are some of the top coronavirus stories we have been covering this Friday:

    • Pope Francis has defied fears over coronavirus and security to make the first papal visit to Iraq, and calls for the “peaceful coexistence of different ethnic and religious groups”
    • Australia appeals to Brussels to review Italy's decision to block export of AstraZeneca vaccine doses, amid a row with the vaccine maker over provision for the EU
    • There were cheers in Nigeria as Dr Ngong Cyprian became the first person in the country to receive the coronavirus vaccine. Rwanda and Kenya also began their immunisation programmes
    • The US sees an unexpected jobs bounce and cinemas reopen in New York City amid hope over its vaccination programme
    • But the WHO urges countries not to relax restrictions too early, saying there could well be a third or even fourth surge of the pandemic
    • Latest figures show Covid-19 has now infected more than 115 million people around the world and claimed the lives of 2.5 million people.
  4. Mental health funding for children and young people

    Money to support children and young people's mental health after the "disruption" of the pandemic has been cautiously welcomed.

    It is part of a £500m pot for mental health services announced in November.

    The government confirmed £79m would be allocated to support children in school and in the community.

    Charities and campaigners said the pandemic had had a significant impact on young people's mental health, with one in six now estimated to have a mental health problem, according to Emma Thomas, head of charity Young Minds.

    "Before Covid, we were looking at one in nine young people with a mental health diagnosable need," she said.

    But Ms Thomas warned against "medicalising" what are natural feelings of distress and said school might be the appropriate place for many children, who don't need formal mental health treatment, to seek support.

    She said it was "absolutely right" to boost mental health support in schools and the community.

    But others, like the Children's Society, condemned it as a "sticking plaster".

    "Only about a third of children will receive support this way by April 2023," a spokesperson said.

  5. UK records 236 further deaths

    We've usually been able to report the UK's latest coronavirus statistics by now.

    But there's a delay to today's update and so the government dashboard will be updated later this evening.

    However Public Health England has some of the figures.

    They said another 236 deaths had now been recorded, of people who had a positive coronavirus test within the previous 28 days.

    And 21,358,815 people have now received the first dose of a vaccine.

  6. Cinemas reopen in New York City

    File photo of a closed Regal E-Walk movie theater in Times Square
    Image caption: Not all cinemas in NYC are opening this weekend

    The US film world will have its eyes on New York City this weekend as some of its cinemas open there for the first time in nearly a year.

    While cinemas have reopened in some capacity elsewhere in the US, New York has one of the country’s biggest movie-going markets and is being seen as a litmus test for a return to communal screenings.

    Pandemic rules apply. Cinemas are only allowed to be a quarter full, and audiences must wear masks and will be assigned seats.

    View more on twitter

    The US film industry has been devastated by the pandemic, which drove down box office sales by more than 70% globally last year, the BBC’s business reporter in New York, Natalie Sherman, reports.

    Audiences have largely stayed away from other reopenings of cinemas, put off by health concerns and the limited titles on offer for the big screen.

    But virus cases in the US are dropping and the vaccination campaign is gaining momentum, our correspondent notes.

    You can read more of Natalie's report here.

  7. Vaccinated NHS staff numbers vary across England

    A coronavirus dose being prepared

    Figures show there is huge variation in the percentage of front-line NHS healthcare staff in England who have received a Covid-19 vaccine.

    More than 98% in the North East and South West have had a first dose - but only 79% in London, leaving around 35,000 staff unvaccinated there.

    Ministers are considering whether to make the jab mandatory for NHS staff.

    But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in his Downing Street briefing today there are currently no plans for that.

    In England, NHS data suggests 93% of eligible front-line staff have been vaccinated - equivalent to one million doses.

    But, nearly three months after the vaccination programme began, up to 80,000 staff have still not taken up the offer.

    Front-line staff were among the first to be offered the vaccine.

    Read more.

  8. People 'may not need vaccine each year'

    Radio 4 PM

    Prof Sarah Gilbert

    Oxford vaccine lead researcher Prof Sarah Gilbert says that current coronavirus vaccines might need "tweaking" to deal with variants.

    She told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "A lot of the changes in the different variants coming from different parts of the world are actually the same. So, we are not seeing the virus mutating away in lots of different directions, which would make it harder to keep up with.”

    Prof Gilbert also stressed it was important to make sure the whole world was protected so that the virus could be suppressed.

    "It's no good just to protect our country and have lots of infections going on in other parts of the world," she said, adding this could lead to new mutations.

    "We need to make sure that when vaccines are being manufactured, they meet the same standards," she added.

    On the subject of whether everyone would have to be vaccinated every year, she said she didn't think this would be necessary.

    Instead, it might be that those at highest risk - like elderly people - are vaccinated each year.

    Prof Gilbert was speaking after receiving the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) Albert Medal. She said it was a "great honour".

    Previous winners include Winston Churchill, Marie Curie, Alexander Graham Bell, Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee.

  9. Analysis: No sign of government backing down on pay

    Jessica Parker

    BBC political correspondent

    Matt Hancock, whose grandmother worked nights as a nurse, says he’ll “bow to nobody” in his admiration for the profession.

    But such a sentiment may jar with those who are furious about the proposed 1% pay offer.

    The health secretary reiterated the suggestion that the fact that any kind of increase is on the table at all marks NHS staff out, given the wider public sector pay freeze.

    Again, there’s no sign that the government’s going to back down, with much depending on what the pay review body comes back with, later in the spring.

    However this row might well rumble on - and could create an awkward backdrop for ministers when they’re seen to visit health settings or vaccination centres to praise the efforts of front-line workers.

  10. Reality Check

    How expensive is an NHS pay rise?

    A digital ad board from Fair Pay for Nursing

    On the subject of NHS pay, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the government has “proposed what we think is affordable".

    On Thursday, the government recommended a 1% pay increase for NHS staff (excluding doctors and dentists) to the staff’s pay review body.

    Currently, the NHS spends almost half of its budget on staff – a 1% pay increase across the board for 2021-22 could cost as much as £500m.

    The government has also argued that a 1% increase would be above inflation, which is currently at 0.7%. However, the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that it could rise to 1.5% within the year, which would make the 1% increase a real-terms pay cut.

    The pay review body will now take evidence from other groups, such as unions and NHS employers before making its recommendation around May.

    It is possible that the review body could recommend a bigger rise, although the government has indicated it would be difficult to fund.

    Reality Check has looked at how NHS pay is decided and how it has changed over time.

  11. How do ministers decide what NHS staff will be paid?

    Woman answering phone

    The government has recommended a 1% pay increase for NHS staff.

    Many other public-sector workers will have their pay frozen, with the government warning that the country's finances are under "huge pressure" because of the pandemic.

    Health unions have criticised the 1% pay proposal and one - representing nurses - is calling for a 12.5% increase instead.

    We look at how decisions over public sector pay are taken here.

  12. What did we learn from today's press conference?

    Matt Hancock

    Today's Downing Street press conference, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Dr Susan Hopkins of Public Health England, has just drawn to a close.

    Here are some of the main things we heard:

    • Monday is the first step in opening up after lockdown - parents across England will be "delighted" and "relieved" that all children are going back to school, says Hancock
    • He says he is "so pleased" that one regular visitor can be allowed for each care home resident
    • The number of coronavirus cases, hospital admissions and deaths are all continuing to fall
    • And the link from cases to hospitalisations to deaths is now breaking, thanks to the vaccine, says Mr Hancock
    • The number of deaths linked to coronavirus in the UK is now halving every 11 days - the rate was every 19 days last month
    • There are fewer people in care homes dying of all causes than is usual for this time of year
    • We are "heading in the right direction" and the vaccination programme is working, but there is further to go, adds Mr Hancock
    • Two-fifths of the adult population has now received a vaccine
    • But mandatory vaccination - either for the general population or NHS staff - is not being proposed, said the health secretary
    • The mystery sixth case of the Brazilian P1 variant of coronavirus has been identified. The person, who lives in Croydon, had been isolating at home
    • An extra £79m is being provided for mental health services for children and young people
    • A proposed 1% pay rise for NHS staff is being put forward on the basis of "affordability". Mr Hancock said the pandemic had brought "financial consequences" for the country
  13. Will nurses leave the NHS?

    The final question comes from Megan Ford of the Nursing Times. She asks the health secretary if he is worried that the 1% pay rise will lead to nurses leaving the profession, making it hard to complete the vaccination programme and stabilise the NHS post-pandemic.

    Matt Hancock notes that 10,000 more nurses have joined the NHS in the last 12 months and that there has been a 34% increase in applications.

    He adds that nurses have had a 12% pay rise in the last three years.

    "I bow to nobody in my admiration for nurses," he says adding that his grandmother was a nurse.

    However, he adds that "times are tight" and notes that nurses are getting a pay rise while others are seeing their wages frozen.

    And that concludes today's press conference

  14. Does Hancock accept criticism of Test and Trace?

    John Johnston from PoliticsHome cites the Scottish Conservative leader's comments from earlier today, saying that Test and Trace didn't work as it should early in the pandemic.

    He asks if the health secretary accepts that analysis?

    He also asks for some explanation on why children are being asked to wear masks in schools.

    Matt Hancock says Test and Trace didn't exist at the start of the pandemic.

    He says there has been a programme of constant improvement.

    Dr Susan Hopkins says the advice for children to wear masks is to reduce the risk in schools amid increased transmission caused by new variants.

    That goes hand in hand with the testing, along with all of the other measures, she says.

  15. Hancock: Difficult to fix social care in difficult economic times

    Nigel Morris from the i says the PM claimed to have a ready-made plan to fix social care in 2019 but yesterday his press secretary said the details were still being worked out. He asks when a plan will be ready.

    Matt Hancock says the government intends to publish a social care plan this year.

    He adds that it is "more challenging to deliver this in difficult economic times".

  16. Hancock pays tribute to Test and Trace for finding Brazil case

    Sky News asks the health secretary about the time it took find the Brazil variant, and Dr Susan Hopkins how helpful it would be to close the UK's borders at the moment.

    Matt Hancock says it's a tribute to Test and Trace "that despite the fact the case was one of the few where the correct details weren't attached to the test itself, they managed to track down the individual".

    He also says it's "reassuring that all the evidence shows that that individual and all six where we found this variant of concern followed the rules and we obviously then put in the testing around that".

    And he adds: "We wouldn't know about any of this without the huge testing and sequencing capacity."

    On border restrictions, Dr Susan Hopkins says people coming into the country and leaving should only be doing it for essential reasons.

    She also says the day two and day eight tests in quarantine give extra reassurance in terms of detecting cases.

    And she details other restrictions currently in place, saying that even with smaller numbers of individuals coming into the country these work to minimise the risk.

  17. Hancock: I'm glad NHS was carved out of pay freeze

    ITV's Libby Wiener asks Matt Hancock how hard he fought for a more generous pay offer for NHS workers.

    And she asks Dr Susan Hopkins if the AstraZeneca vaccine works against the Brazil variant.

    Hancock says the government has to take issues of "affordability" into account but adds that he is glad the NHS was "carved out of the pay freeze".

    On the second question, Dr Hopkins says "we do not yet have lab or clinical data for the Brazilian variant" adding that this may take weeks to come through.

    However she says the vaccine may cause "some reduction in the risk of transmission".

  18. Is a 1% NHS pay rise fair?

    The BBC's Vicki Young asks Matt Hancock if a 1% NHS pay rise is fair, and if there is a case for mandatory vaccination of NHS staff?

    The health secretary says he "pays tribute" to the work of the NHS.

    But he says the country is facing a challenge in terms of the financial impact of the pandemic.

    He says the government has proposed what it thinks is affordable to make sure that the NHS gets a pay rise, and they are not part of they public sector pay freeze.

    On vaccinations, he says the government is not going to bring in mandatory vaccinations across the board and at this stage it is not proposing them for NHS staff.

    He says a review will look at the moral, ethical and practical questions about all of these issues.

  19. Can under-16s get the vaccine?

    Hannah from Cornwall asks if the government has considered allowing under-16s who are shielding to get the vaccine.

    Hancock replies that it is allowed - as long as the child's clinician says it is in their best interest.

    Dr Hopkins adds that they are awaiting further data on the subject.

  20. Reality Check

    Where is the money for mental health coming from?

    At the government briefing, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that “an extra £79m” will be allocated to supporting the mental health of children and young people affected by the disruption of the pandemic.

    It’s an allocation of part of the £500m announced for mental health services in England at the Spending Review in November.

    The money is aimed at:

    • Increasing the number of mental health support teams in schools and colleges from 59 to 400 by April 2023
    • Giving 22,500 more children and young people access to community mental health services
    • Eating disorder treatment for about 2,000 more children and young people.

    You can read more about the plans here.