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Live Reporting

Edited by Paul Gribben

All times stated are UK

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  1. That's all from us...

    That's the end of our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic for today. Here's a recap of the day's top stories:

    Today's coverage was brought to you by Julian Joyce, Paul Gribben, Alexandra Fouche, Victoria Lindrea and Hamish Mackay. Thanks for joining us.

  2. President Biden embarks on Covid 'Help is Here' tour

    US President Joe Biden arrives at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 16 March 2021
    Image caption: President Biden's first stop is in Philadelphia

    US President Joe Biden is embarking on a series of visits across the US to promote the huge Covid relief plan which he signed into law last week.

    The first stop of his "Help is Here" tour to highlight the economic stimulus plan is Pennsylvania, where he is expected to visit a small business.

    The $1.9tn (£1.4tn) programme is popular with most Americans, despite the fact that no Republicans in Congress voted in favour.

    The bill includes $1,400 payments to a majority of Americans (excluding those on higher incomes), an extension of jobless benefits, and a child tax credit that is expected to lift millions out of poverty.

    It also provides support for businesses, state and local governments. Some of the funds will go to the coronavirus vaccination drive.

  3. Children as young as eight are self-harming, doctor warns

    Children

    Children as young as eight are self-harming amid an unprecedented mental health crisis - fuelled by the stress of lockdown, a consultant says.

    Staff at Bradford Royal Infirmary are regularly seeing youngsters who have attempted suicide or taken overdoses.

    The number of children attending A&E with mental ill-health conditions has risen from once or twice a month to the same figure weekly.

    Consultant Dave Greenhorn says: "We've seen all sorts of tragic things that we haven't seen before."

    Mr Greenhorn adds that although the majority of children are in their teens, those as young as eight are being seen.

    This, he says, was "extremely unusual" before the pandemic.

    Earlier, the new children's commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, said she wanted to "rebuild childhood" after the disruption of the pandemic.

    You can read more about the children's commissioner's hopes and plans in this BBC interview.

  4. Serbia to tighten restrictions

    People sit at a bar terrace near the river Sava in Belgrade, Serbia, on 1 March 2021
    Image caption: From Wednesday, only food stores, pharmacies and petrol stations will remain open as cases rise

    Serbia has announced that emergency restrictions will be tightened from Wednesday until next Monday.

    PM Ana Brnabic says "everything will be closed, except for food stores, pharmacies and petrol stations".

    Serbia has vaccinated more of its people than any other country in continental Europe, and is using Sinopharm (which is Chinese-made), Sputnik V (Russian) as well as the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.

    "Whether [vaccines] come from China, the US or EU - we don't care as long as they're safe and we get them as soon as possible," Ms Brnabic has previously told the BBC.

    But the number of new coronavirus cases has surged in recent days. The 14-day incidence rate stands at 855 per 100,000, reports the BBC's Guy Delaunay in Belgrade.

  5. How is lockdown being lifted across the UK?

    People sitting on a wall, socially distanced from one another

    One of our main coronavirus stories today is about the easing of Scotland's lockdown, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying "brighter days are ahead of us".

    But what are the plans across the UK?

    Sturgeon says she hopes the country will be in level zero - that is, "nearly normal" - by the end of June.

    In Scotland and Wales four people from two different households can now meet outside.

    In England, the next relaxation of rules will take effect on 29 March - and includes allowing six people or two households to meet up outdoors.

    Northern Ireland has extended its lockdown until 1 April, with a review of current measures due later this week.

    Here's our full explainer on the four nations' plans - and check out our postcode tool to check the rules where you live.

  6. Prosecutors dealing with rise in rape cases during Covid, MPs told

    Stock image of a woman

    Prosecutors dealing with rapes and serious sexual offences have 80% more cases than they did before the coronavirus pandemic, MPs heard.

    Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lawyers are now handling on average around 27 such cases each at any one time - as opposed to 15 prior to the outbreak, the Commons Justice Committee was told today.

    Chief executive Rebecca Lawrence said CPS prosecutors had been operating for nine months with a "hyper inflated" caseload, which was 63% higher than it was in February last year.

    In magistrates' courts, lawyers have 20% more cases per lawyer, on average about 101, she said, while crown court lawyers have 27% more cases.

    She told MPs: "Our rape and serious sexual offences lawyers, so much in our thoughts at the moment and in the public's mind, have on average 80% more cases per lawyer than they did at the start of the pandemic.

    "They are holding on average 27 cases each as opposed to 15.

    "And strain on that particular group of prosecutors, as you know, pre-dates the pandemic."

  7. Russian media cast doubt over vaccine safety

    BBC Monitoring

    The world through its media

    A man receives a dose of Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus disease in a carriage of the Academician Fyodor Uglov medical train, at a railway station in the town of Tulun in Irkutsk Region, Russia, on 16 March 2021
    Image caption: One presenter said it was a good thing no-one in Russia had been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine

    Accusations that the AstraZeneca vaccine is unsafe have received extensive and mostly unquestioning coverage in Russia.

    Pro-Kremlin media are contrasting the jab with Russia's own vaccine, Sputnik V, which they describe as "the world's best".

    "A tremendous vaccine scandal: Britain's AstraZeneca is killing people across the world," claimed the presenter of 60 Minut, a talk show on Russia's most popular TV station Rossiya 1.

    "Thank God no-one in Russia has been vaccinated with it," he added.

    Russian commentators have given short shrift to assurances by the World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) that there is no indication that the AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots.

    Instead, state TV's Channel One falsely claimed that the jab caused "deaths and side-effects".

    The vaccine used in Britain may be lethal - according to Russian TV - but at least the UK has a vaccine, and Brexit should be thanked for that, several commentators have argued.

    "Had London not divorced the EU, London would be standing before Brussels cap in hand," said NTV television.

    Because of problems with vaccination in Europe, the EU's existence itself is now in question, Russian media have suggested.

    "Why do we need the EU if it can't protect our lives?" is the question often asked in Europe, according to one commentator on Rossiya 1.

    And if the EU does fall apart, rest assured Russia will have played a role, the Kremlin-funded TV channel said.

    "Will we break up the European Union?" asked a presenter on Rossiya 1 TV. "We will. We will. Or it will fall apart on its own," she said.

  8. Duchess of Cornwall reveals she had AstraZeneca vaccine

    Duchess of Cornwall

    The Duchess of Cornwall has revealed she was given the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine earlier this year.

    Camilla said it "didn't matter" which vaccine she was given - and joked she did not ask because "I hate injections so much" during a visit to a pop-up inoculation centre in London with the Prince of Wales.

    A string of European countries - including Germany, France, Italy and Spain - have paused the use of the AstraZeneca jab in their vaccine rollouts due to concerns over possible adverse side-effects.

    The EMA, which is the EU's drugs regulator, is conducting a full scientific review of the AstraZeneca jab, but has said it currently "remains convinced" that the "benefits of this vaccine outweigh the risk".

    In mid-February, it was announced that Charles and Camilla had received their first Covid vaccinations.

    The heir to the throne, who is aged 72, and the duchess, 73, were - as over 70-year-olds - in the fourth priority group for the rollout of the jabs.

  9. What do we know about new Brazil variant cases found?

    Nick Triggle

    Health Correspondent

    Two more cases of P.1 Brazil variant have been identified in England, one in the West Midlands and one in the London borough of Haringey.

    This variant has a mutation – known as E484 – that means it can escape some of the immune response, which may mean vaccines work less effectively against it.

    Both cases are linked with international travel to Brazil. The case in the West Midlands was identified following their arrival at Birmingham Airport, where they were tested and quarantined as part of the managed hotel quarantine process.

    The London case was picked up through surge testing. Surge testing will be stepped up in the affected area, and contact tracing teams have undertaken a comprehensive investigation to identify any further contacts.

    The latest cases bring the total number of P.1 variant cases in the UK to 12 – nine in England and three in Scotland, all of which have links to travel or to a previously confirmed case that has travelled to Brazil.

    With more than a quarter of all positive cases sent for genomic sequencing to see what type of virus has caused the infection, the fact so few cases has been found shows the P.1 variant is not spreading widely.

  10. France marks first anniversary of lockdown

    Hugh Schofield

    BBC News, Paris

    A medical crew from Angers hospital carries a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on a stretcher after his transfer by a helicopter of French SAMU rescue team, from the Ile de France region to Angers hospital, France, on 15 March 2021
    Image caption: A year on, France is still dealing with the Covid crisis, and seeing around 25,000 new cases a day...

    Exactly a year ago, France announced that it was going into lockdown because of Covid.

    President Emmanuel Macron made an evening appearance on national television, telling people that the country was now “at war” with the virus.

    Initially, the confinement was to be for just two weeks.

    More than half of France’s entire population - 35 million people, a record - watched President Macron on the evening of 16 March telling them what most suspected was coming: that from noon the next day, they were to be confined to their homes.

    The previous days had seen a growing sense of foreboding, as first schools were shut, then cinemas - then bars and restaurants. On the morning of Tuesday 17 March, there was a rush on the trains, as Parisians and other city-dwellers sought refuge with relatives in the country.

    And then the uncanny stillness descended. It was to last not two weeks - as President Macron initially announced - but two months.

    A view shows a protective ribbon on an empty and closed Promenade des Anglais during the second local weekend lockdown imposed to slow the rate of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) contagion in Nice
    Image caption: ...and the country is still under night-time curfew, with some areas - like here in Nice - still under weekend lockdowns

    A year on, France has been through a second lockdown, and is now under a night-time curfew. The number of daily new cases is around 25,000, and in some areas, like Paris, the number of Covid patients in critical beds is reaching saturation point.

    The vaccination programme is slowly moving into gear, with five million people so far having received at least one jab; but President Macron’s promise to inoculate all those who wish to be inoculated by the end of the summer will require a very rapid increase in the pace.

  11. WATCH: Why some countries have paused use of the AstraZeneca vaccine

    Video content

    Video caption: Covid-19: Why some countries paused AstraZeneca vaccines

    Use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been paused in 11 European countries after a small number of blood clots were reported among people who had recently had the jab.

    But one senior global health researcher called the response "baffling", given there is no evidence to suggest it is unsafe to use.

    Ros Atkins explains.

  12. School attendance back at high levels in England

    Sean Coughlan

    BBC News, education correspondent

    Secondary school pupils
    Image caption: Secondary pupils went back to masks and Covid testing

    The first attendance figures since schools in England returned last week show high levels of pupils back in the classroom.

    In primary schools, 95% of pupils were in classes at the end of last week.

    The return has been staggered in secondaries to allow Covid testing, but 89% of pupils were in last Monday.

    This is the highest proportion of secondary school pupils in school since the first lockdown began a year ago - with a further 2% waiting for a phased return this week.

    Secondary schools have been carrying out Covid tests on pupils, screening them as they return, with the attendance figures showing how they were filtered back, with numbers rising from 30% to 89% through the week.

    Read more here.

  13. Blackpool IT expert becomes stand-in rabbi

    Michael Tax

    An IT specialist has been praised for his community spirit, after becoming a stand-in rabbi at his local synagogue.

    Michael Tax, 45, stepped into the breach at Blackpool Reform Synagogue after its elderly rabbi was not able to travel from Liverpool because of the virus.

    "I had virtually no training - just a couple of conversations with the words 'read this and do that' - I was literally thrown in the deep end," said Mr Tax.

    "I was so nervous - it was horrendous, but I got through it - and as bad as it sounds, it gets easier as you do more."

    Mr Tax has since led seven funeral services, as well as using his IT skills to put the synagogue services online.

    He has been praised for his "selfless" community spirit by House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, earning an award from West Lancashire Scouts for his efforts.

    "I was just doing my little bit to help," said Mr Tax.

  14. WATCH: Europe seeing 'cascade of bad decision-making' over vaccine

    Video content

    Video caption: 'Europe's cascade of bad decisions over AstraZeneca jab'

    European countries pausing use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine are risking the lives of their citizens and "throwing caution to the wind", Dr Anthony Cox, who researches drug safety at the University of Birmingham, has said.

    He told BBC World News: "What we seem to have had is a cascade of bad decision-making that's spread across Europe."

  15. WATCH: Norway vaccine concern over 'blood clot cluster'

    Video content

    Video caption: Norway vaccine concern over 'blood clot cluster'

    Norway's decision last week to pause the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was taken as a precautionary measure, Sara Watle, senior physician at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said.

    She told BBC World News: "The four cases were clusters, so they were reported to us in a very short period of time.

    "And the four cases have all occurred in patients under 50 years of age, and they all have a rare combination of symptoms with blood clots, haemorrhages and low platelet counts."

    It was "too difficult for us to conclude" whether there was a link between the blood clots and the vaccine, but pausing use of the AstraZeneca jab had been "a very difficult decision", she added.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has previously said there is no evidence of a link between clots and vaccines and urged countries not to halt vaccinations.

    AstraZeneca has said there is no evidence of an increased risk of clotting due to the vaccine.

  16. WATCH: Texas woman arrested for refusing to wear mask

    Video content

    Video caption: Texas woman arrested for refusing to wear mask

    A Texas woman was taken into custody after she refused to wear a mask at a bank.

    The incident happened one day after the state ended its mask mandate for public spaces, which excludes banks.

    The officer can be heard asking the woman if she wants to "do this the easy way or the hard way".

  17. South Africa variant cases spark extra testing in West Midlands

    People being handed a home testing kit

    Extra testing is being carried out in a neighbourhood in the West Midlands after cases of the South Africa variant of coronavirus were found.

    The variant is not considered to be more dangerous than other versions of the virus, but it's considered a "variant of concern" because it could spread more easily and potentially be more resistant to vaccines.

    The Department of Health says additional testing is being rolled out in the DY4 postcode of Sandwell, north-west of Birmingham, to help monitor and suppress cases of the variant.

    Positive cases will be sequenced for genomic data to help increase understanding of variants and their spread within these areas.

    People living in the DY4 postcode are being strongly encouraged by the government to take a Covid test when offered - whether they are showing symptoms or not.

  18. Charities warn cancer death rate could rise post-pandemic

    Christian Hewgill, Newsbeat reporter

    Individuals spoke to Radio 1 Newsbeat about how their treatment had been affect by the pandemic

    A group of 47 cancer charities says that without urgent action, the UK's cancer death rate will rise for the first time in decades.

    One Cancer Voice estimates that millions of people have had their cancer care affected in some way by the pandemic.

    The group of charities says the NHS needs more resources.

    It also wants to see more staff available to diagnose and treat cancer, with greater NHS access to private facilities in order to "clear the backlog".

    Radio 1 Newsbeat has spoken exclusively to One Cancer Voice about the impact of coronavirus on cancer care - and those who have been personally affected.

    Read more here.

  19. BreakingUK vaccine first doses approach 25 million

    There have now been 24,839,906 first doses of a Covid vaccine administered in the UK, a rise of 386,685 over the past 24 hours.

    In addition, 1,663,646 people have received a second dose.

  20. BreakingUK records a further 110 Covid deaths

    The UK has recorded a further 110 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, down from 231 at this time last week.

    There have also been a further 5,294 positive cases reported, down from 5,766 last week.