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Live Reporting

Edited by James Clarke and Rob Corp

All times stated are UK

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  1. Goodbye and thanks for reading

    Today's live page is coming to a close now. Thanks for joining us.

    Your writers today were Jen Meierhans, Victoria Lindrea, Penny Spiller and Fran Gillett.

    The editors were James Clarke and Rob Corp.

    We'll be back again tomorrow morning with all the coronavirus news as it happens. See you then.

  2. What's been happening around the world?

    The UK and EU say they are working on creating a "win-win" situation to expand vaccine supply for all citizens. A joint statement says co-operation is "even more important" as Europe faces a third wave of coronavirus.

    India has placed a temporary hold on all exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, sources have told the BBC. Rising cases in India are putting pressure on the domestic supply chain - but there has been no official comment from the Indian government.

    China is stepping up its vaccine rollout, with plans to inoculate 40% of its 1.4 billion population by the end of June. So far, 82.8 million people have received jabs, with China currently focusing on vaccinating people aged between 18 and 59.

    Chancellor Angela Merkel has made an extraordinary plea to the German people to forgive her, after she cancelled a strict Easter lockdown just a day after announcing it. She admitted there was not enough time to implement the shutdown; it had been met with resistance from business leaders.

    Brazil has, for the first time, recorded a daily coronavirus death toll of more than 3,000 as the virus continues its rapid spread across the country. Health experts say the pandemic is virtually out of control and hospitals report being close to collapse.

  3. What's making headlines in the UK this evening?

    • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been speaking about the need for Covid passports going forward - and the obligation on care workers to be vaccinated - with a backlash anticipated from unions, the opposition and his own party.
    • Front-line doctors have spoken for the first time about how intensive care units have fared during the second wave of the pandemic, with reports of an unprecedented 2,300 intensive care patients being moved between UK hospitals in the six months to March 2021
    • The trend of a falling number of deaths continues with a further 98 people reported to have died within 28 days of a positive test, although the decline in cases has slowed
    • More than half of adults in Scotland will have received a first dose of coronavirus vaccine by the end of Wednesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has declared. Ms Sturgeon confirmed the Scottish Government is on course to have offered a first dose to all adults by the end of July
    • Boris Johnson says the UK may have to "take action if necessary" on travel from France "very soon" due to a rising number of cases and the prevalence of the South Africa variant. The PM has said he "can't rule out further measures" but added there was "a balance to be struck" given the "very serious disruption" that would occur to cross-channel trade
  4. Is the government doing enough about the South Africa variant?

    Masked passengers arriving at Heathrow

    We've heard a lot about the Covid variant that was first identified in South Africa - which scientists believe could be more contagious or more resistant to current vaccines.

    The strain has now been detected in dozens of other countries. In the UK, there have been 360 cases of the variant.

    A travel ban is currently in place for South Africa and nine other southern African countries and, while UK residents and Irish nationals are exempt, those arrivals must still quarantine.

    But is the government targeting enough countries with travel bans?

    On 16 March, the World Health Organisation identified 64 countries where the South Africa variant had been found. Of those, only 11 are on the "red list" which bans arrivals.

    According to Prof Neil Ferguson from Imperial College, some countries - including France - are seeing that a significant fraction of their cases are the South Africa variant.

    He suggested that as there is "a lot of essential travel" between the UK and France, the government should consider further measures to reduce the risk of more of the variant reaching the UK.

    Read more here.

  5. How anti-vaccine narratives went global during the pandemic

    Olga Robinson

    BBC Monitoring

    Syringes with facebook logo in the background

    Online communities sharing harmful anti-vaccine content have grown significantly during the pandemic, according to new BBC Monitoring research on seven countries across Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe.

    Facebook accounts promoting false information about vaccines saw a boost in followers in Brazil, Mexico, India, Ukraine, France, Tanzania and Kenya over the past year.

    Vaccine misinformation in these countries appears to mainly spread in groups where a range of topics such as health, religion, politics and conspiracy theories are discussed.

    In Brazil, Mexico, Tanzania and Kenya some religious pages promoted misleading claims and conspiracy theories about vaccines to their large online audiences.

    In India we found anti-vaccine content was largely driven by individuals promoting traditional medicine.

    Our research also showed a political and nationalistic dimension to online debates about vaccination in some countries, which often featured criticism of and misleading claims about foreign vaccines.

    The findings were released on the final day of the BBC's Trust in News conference, at which technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones questioned social media companies about what they have done to tackle disinformation on their platforms.

  6. PM stirs trouble with remarks on vaccine certification

    Iain Watson

    Political correspondent

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson has plunged headlong into an issue that’s proving controversial within his own party.

    Speaking to a group of senior MPs earlier this afternoon, Mr Johnson suggested that, as restrictions ease, people may have to provide proof of vaccination to visit a pub.

    This, he suggested, would be up to individual publicans.

    The prime minister said the "basic concept of a vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us".

    But the use of vaccine passports, or certificates, domestically has previously been denounced as "divisive" - by none other than Mr Johnson’s own vaccines minister.

    At the same meeting, in answer to another question, Mr Johnson declared that care home companies would be acting ‘responsibly’ if they required all staff to be vaccinated.

    ‘"It doesn’t seem to me to be irresponsible at all – far from it, it's highly responsible – for care home companies to think about requiring vaccinations," he said, speaking to the Liaisons Committee.

    There is an ongoing debate inside government over whether to make Covid vaccinations compulsory for social care workers, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock setting out some of the benefits of this approach,

    But Unison, which represents staff, opposes mandatory vaccination.

    Now the prime minister seems to be floating a slightly different solution – by placing responsibility on employers to require that their staff be vaccinated.

    This will seen by some as compulsion by the back door - or what critics have called "jabs for jobs".

  7. India temporarily halts Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine exports

    A lady receives a Covid-19 jab during a vaccination drive at a mosque in Bhopal, India
    Image caption: India will open up vaccinations for those over the age of 45 from 1 April

    India has placed a temporary hold on all exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, foreign ministry sources have told the BBC.

    They said rising cases meant domestic demand was expected to pick up in the coming weeks, and so the doses were needed for India's own rollout.

    The move - described as a "temporary squeeze" by officials - is expected to affect supplies until the end of April.

    Some 190 countries under the Covax scheme are likely to be affected.

    India's largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India (SII), has delayed shipments of the AstraZeneca jab to several countries in recent days, including the UK and Brazil.

    India has exported more than 60 million vaccine doses to 76 countries so far, with the majority of these being the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.

    The decision comes as India faces a surge in coronavirus cases. On Wednesday it recorded its sharpest daily rise this year, with more than 47,000 new cases and 275 deaths.

    There has been no official comment from the government or the Serum Institute on the decision.

    Read more.

  8. Vaccine passports a 'dangerous path to tread'

    A woman getting a vaccine
    Image caption: Some countries and travel firms are looking at whether people could be asked to prove their Covid status with a vaccine passport

    Earlier, we heard from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson who was asked about whether Covid vaccination certificates or passports could be used to help British society open up.

    Asked whether they could be used by pubs to allow people in, Mr Johnson said "that's the kind of thing that may be up to individual publicans".

    But the idea has been met with some criticism.

    Mr Johnson's fellow Conservative MP Steve Baker - a member of the lockdown-sceptic Coronavirus Research Group - has warned that the prime minister “began to tread a dangerous path when he opened the door to domestic Covid certificates” today.

    “First they said we’ll need them to watch the football, and today that it may be papers for the pub.

    “Whether the state legislates for it, recommends it or simply allows it the result will be the same: a two-tier Britain that prevents pregnant women from taking part in society, given that the government is telling them not to take the vaccine, or one where we turn back the clock and tolerate businesses turning away customers from communities which have shown an unfortunate hesitancy to take up the offer of a vaccine.

    “We must not fall into this ghastly trap.”

  9. Women under 50 have worse 'long Covid' outcomes, studies show

    Laura Goodwin

    BBC Scotland

    Women with "long Covid" symptoms

    Two separate studies have found that women under the age of 50 had worse long-term outcomes after being in hospital with Covid-19.

    Research led by Glasgow University followed 327 adults from around the UK who were admitted to hospital between 5 February and 5 October last year.

    Participants were followed for between three and 11 months.

    It found that women under 50 had higher odds of worse outcomes when compared with men and older participants - and this was even if the woman had no previous health problems, the study found.

    They were five times less likely to report feeling fully recovered three months or more after the onset of their infection, twice as likely to report worse fatigue and seven times more likely to be more breathless.

    We've got more on the findings here.

  10. Intensive care patients 'transferred hundreds of miles'

    Patient transfer

    We've found out some more about how the NHS coped during the second wave of the pandemic - and in particular, how intensive care units fared.

    Two patients were moved to a hospital 300 miles away because of an intensive care bed shortage - and an unprecedented 2,300 intensive care patients were moved between UK hospitals.

    The data covers the period from September 2020 to March 2021.

    Front-line doctors, speaking for the first time, say these transfers were the only way to care for patients.

    And NHS England said the health service had responded well under intense pressure.

    Read the full story here.

  11. BreakingUK and EU working to create 'win-win' situation amid vaccine row

    The UK and EU have said they are working on creating a "win-win" situation and to expand vaccine supply for all citizens, as the row involving demand for the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab continues.

    The UK government and European Commission have just released a joint statement.

    “We are all facing the same pandemic and the third wave makes co-operation between the EU and UK even more important," it reads.

    "We have been discussing what more we can do to ensure a reciprocally beneficial relationship between the UK and EU on Covid-19.

    "Given our interdependencies, we are working on specific steps we can take - in the short-, medium - and long term - to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens.

    "In the end, openness and global co-operation of all countries will be key to finally overcome this pandemic and ensure better preparation for meeting future challenges.

    "We will continue our discussions.”

  12. Today's UK coronavirus figures in graphs

    Graph showing the number of deaths

    Earlier the government published its daily coronavirus figures, showing another 5,605 cases had been confirmed and a further 98 people had died with the virus.

    This continues the trend of a falling number of deaths, although the decline in cases has slowed.

    Meanwhile, the vaccine rollout continues. As our graphs show, more than 31 million jabs have now been administered of which more than 28 million are people's first doses.

    Graph showing the number of vaccine doses given in the UK
    Graph showing the number of first doses given
  13. Pope cuts pay for cardinals as Vatican finances hit by pandemic

    Pope Francis has sought to make the Vatican's finances more transparent
    Image caption: The Vatican said cuts were being made "with the aim of safeguarding current jobs"

    The Vatican's income has plummeted during the pandemic as museums and other attractions such as St Peter's Basilica have been forced to close. It's now expecting a deficit of €50m (£43m) this year.

    Pope Francis has now ordered pay cuts for cardinals and other clerics starting from next month.

    Cardinals are believed to receive up to €5,000 (£4,300) a month and often live in subsidised accommodation - but will now have their pay reduced by 10%.

    Priests and other clerics will see their salaries cut by between 3% and 8% and planned salary increases will be suspended until March 2023.

    The pope, who is the head of the Catholic Church, has previously said he does not want to fire people in difficult economic times.

    Read the full story here.

  14. Vaccine certificates for pubs 'may be up to individual publicans'

    Boris Johnson
    Image caption: Boris Johnson has been answering questions from a committee of senior MPs

    As we've been reporting, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been facing questions from MPs this afternoon about a whole range of issues - including about the government's handling of the pandemic.

    He is up in front of the liaison committee, which is made up of all the MPs who lead the different parliamentary committees, and which gets to grill the PM a few times each year.

    Conservative MP William Wragg asks what Johnson's thoughts are on vaccine certificates, for example proof of a vaccine that could allow someone to do certain things. Could they be used for ordinary people to be allowed into pub, for example?

    The prime minister says "that's the kind of thing that may be up to individual publicans".

    You can read more about vaccine passports here. A government review, which is being led by Michael Gove, is due to consider whether a vaccine passport could be also be used to allow visitors entry to venues such as bars, theatres or sports stadiums.

  15. BreakingUK announces a further 98 deaths

    Today's daily coronavirus figures have been published by the government.

    They show another 5,605 cases have been recorded, and a further 98 people have died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.

    Meanwhile the latest vaccination figures show that more than 28.6 million people have now had their first dose, after another 325,650 first doses given yesterday.

  16. 'Things are looking difficult on the continent' - PM

    People on the beach

    Fellow Conservative William Wragg - who chairs the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee - has asked the PM about the possibility of international travel this summer.

    The PM says the government will get the findings of its global travel taskforce on 5 April and thereafter he will "be setting out what may be possible from 17 May".

    But he warns "things are looking difficult on the continent and we will have to look at the situation as it develops".

    He agrees there is a wide spectrum of scientific opinion on the matter, but assures his colleague advisors advise but ministers will decide.

  17. PM: UK may have to take action on France travel 'very soon'

    Lorries at the Port of Dover

    The Labour chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Yvette Cooper, has asked Boris Johnson why France has not been put on the UK's red list, given the rise in cases and new variants.

    The prime minister explains that putting a country on the "red list" has consequences for the supply of medicines and foods to the UK - a nod to the huge haulage industry that sees goods crossing the channel - but the PM concedes "we will have to look at tougher measures" if the circumstances change.

    Cooper says 20,000 people are coming to the UK from France every week and two-thirds of arrivals are exempt from restrictions - she wants to know why hauliers are not being tested in the UK.

    Johnson says the numbers have "massively diminished" in recent months - but says he will "look at the situation in the Channel" and "can't rule out further measures" on people arriving from France.

    Why is the PM not taking action now, asks Cooper?

    Johnson says there is "a balance to be struck" given the "very serious disruption" that would occur to cross-channel trade.

    "We will take action if necessary to protect public health" he adds and "we may have to do it "very soon".

  18. PM insists Test and Trace has provided 'tools to fight' Covid

    Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Labour MP Meg Hillier asks Boris Johnson what his biggest regret is over the past year.

    The prime minister prevaricates, saying he "wouldn't want to make a mistake about my biggest mistake and single out the wrong one" but commits once again to "a proper inquiry in due course".

    Hillier homes in on the Test and Trace programme and asks the prime minister if he is "content" with having committed £37bn to it.

    Johnson says Test and Trace has been "an extraordinary achievement", adding 80% of the money goes on labs and testing, which is "desperately needed". It has given us "the tools to fight" the virus, he states.

    He says the data derived from the Test and Trace programme, in terms of new variants and where they have been arisen, has allowed the government to study "what is happening with the pandemic in a very granular way". He insists it has been of "crucial importance".

  19. We will do everything necessary to keep vaccines on schedule - PM

    Boris Johnson speaks to Liaison Committee

    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is appearing before a special House of Commons committee made up of senior politicians who have been grilling him on a range of issues.

    Asked about the potential threat of the European Union restricting Covid vaccine exports, he said the co-operation the UK has with the EU is "very important" and he doesn't believe blockades "are sensible".

    Long-term damage done by blockades can be "very considerable", he told the chairman of the Health Committee Conservative Jeremy Hunt.

    Anyone considering a blockade may want to think about how companies would view a country where such things are imposed, he warns.

    Hunt asks if nothing will be "taken off the table" to make sure the UK gets vaccines.

    Johnson says "we will do everything that is necessary" to make sure that people get their vaccines.

  20. US food delivery service now drops off Covid tests


    Would you like a Covid test with your chips?

    Some US residents can now get one alongside a meal after food ordering service DoorDash announced they'll deliver at-home tests to cities across the country.

    Two types of tests will be available - a nasal swab or a saliva sample - the company said. Both can yield results within 24 to 48 hours.

    It is the first such scheme to be launched by a delivery service.

    "Amidst the pandemic, one of our priorities has been to make health and wellness essentials more accessible for customers, and we will continue to expand our offerings in the healthcare space," a spokesperson for DoorDash said.

    The prices and availability of testing kits in the US vary, though the ones offered by DoorDash range in price from $109 (£79) to $119 (£87) and may require a video call with medical personnel during the test.

    Here's the full story.