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Live Reporting

Edited by Emma Owen and James Clarke

All times stated are UK

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  1. Have a good evening

    That's all from the live team for today. Your updates were brought to you by Emma Owen, George Wright, James Clarke, Jennifer Meierhans, Owen Amos and Victoria Lindrea.

    We hope you have a peaceful evening - and the live page will be back in the morning.

  2. What's been happening?

    Chart showing coronavirus deaths, cases, hospital patients and vaccinations in the UK

    We are going to be drawing our live updates to a close soon so here's a look back at the day's news:

    • MPs voted by 484 to 76 to extend emergency coronavirus laws until the end of September
    • Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the powers are essential in the event of new variants and warns "we're not at the finish line yet"
    • Shadow Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth says Labour supported the renewal of the Coronavirus Act "without any enthusiasm or relish"
    • Meanwhile, EU leaders have been holding virtual talks on how to boost vaccine supply and distribution as infections surge in many of the member states
    • The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, told the meeting the bloc has exported 77 million doses of coronavirus vaccines since early December - which is greater than the number of jabs given to EU citizens so far
    • A government report on whether the UK could adopt "vaccine passports" to allow foreign travel or entry to pubs will be released in early April
    • The PM says it may only be possible to implement when everyone has been offered a vaccine and will not be needed when venues are due to reopen on 12 April
    • The British Institute of Innkeepers has called the idea "unworkable" but Britain’s largest nightclub operator Deltic Group says clubbers would likely accept it
    • In other news, Boris Johnson admitted he "badly" needs a haircut
    • And we're leaving you with a photo of head gardener Simon Tetlow at Tatton Park in Cheshire. He's preparing for the return of visitors when outdoor venues reopen in England next week
    Tatton Park's head gardener Simon Tetlow
    Image caption: Head gardener Simon Tetlow is preparing for the return of visitors to Tatton Park in Cheshire
  3. NI looks at hotel quarantine plan while youth services to reopen

    Chris Page

    BBC News Ireland correspondent

    Northern Ireland’s devolved government has announced youth services will be reopened on a phased basis at the start of next month.

    The SureStart programme, which supports the parents of children aged under four, will also resume.

    Ministers in the power-sharing Stormont Executive also discussed international travel at a meeting this afternoon.

    At a news conference afterwards, the First Minister Arlene Foster and the deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill indicated travellers arriving from countries on the so-called “red list” would soon have to isolate in a hotel for 10 days.

    There are currently no international flights operating to or from Northern Ireland, but plans are being made for the quarantine system to come into operation when air routes resume.

    O’Neill also said the current coronavirus R-rate in Northern Ireland is thought to be between 0.75 and 0.95.

  4. Teacher exam assessing could lead to 'much higher grade inflation'

    Students taking exams

    The Government could face "chaos" and a "Wild West" of A-level and GCSE grades after this summer's exams were cancelled, MPs have warned.

    Teacher assessments could lead to "much higher grade inflation", the House of Commons Education Select Committee heard.

    Conservative MP Robert Halfon, committee chairman, said it could "create chaos for the thousands of students chasing college and further and higher education places in August".

    His comments came as Britain's largest teaching union accused the government of "hiding behind" teachers who are likely to be "lambasted" if this summer's GCSE and A-level grades are higher.

    In a letter to the Education Secretary, Halfon says: "The DfE and Ofqual should consider some kind of standardised assessment and a more robust way of validating teacher-assessed grades."

  5. Albania v England qualifier set to go ahead after security doubts

    The Air Albania Stadium in Tirana
    Image caption: England are due to arrive in Albania on Saturday

    England's World Cup qualifier against Albania in Tirana on Sunday looked at risk of being called off today because of doubts over security - but the issue now seems to have been resolved.

    The Albanian Football Association (AFA) earlier said it had been informed by local police the force could not guarantee the safety of the teams.

    But the country's state police have since issued a statement to say they have "taken all measures to guarantee order and security" for the game.

    The dilemma followed the AFA's request for a restricted number of fans vaccinated against Covid-19 to be permitted to attend the game, which was rejected by government.

    The match will therefore be played behind closed doors, and with no other lockdown measures in place in the country it could have meant the area around the Air Albania Stadium being busy - seemingly with no promise of adequate policing until the guarantees were given by police.

    The AFA said it would have had "catastrophic consequences for the image of our country, the national team and in general for Albanian football" if it had been forced to cancel the game.

    England open up their campaign against San Marino in less than half an hour, while Albania play in Andorra at the same time.

    Read more here.

  6. Analysis: Is vaccinating children against Covid on the horizon?

    Philippa Roxby

    Health reporter, BBC News

    Vaccination

    No Covid vaccines have yet been authorised for use in children under 16 but there are numerous trials now taking place to test their effects in this age group.

    Pfizer is the latest drug company to announce the start of a trial in children under 12, saying it hopes to produce data in the second half of this year.

    The US company has already been testing vaccines in teenage children aged 12-15 and expects to have results from those trials in the next few weeks.

    AstraZeneca announced vaccine trials in children aged 6-17 some time ago and the first of 300 volunteers were due to be jabbed last month, and Moderna has said it will test its vaccine on 12 to 17-year-olds.

    Children’s risk of becoming ill or dying with Covid-19 is tiny and throughout the pandemic they have very rarely needed hospital treatment.

    But as countries attempt to bring down deaths, illness and infection levels to very low levels so normal life can resume, children are now being considered possible candidates for vaccination as well as adults.

    If children do play a role in transmission, even if not to the same extent as adults, then vaccinating them would make sense.

    But there are lots of hoops to go through first. Are vaccines safe in children? Do they stop them spreading the virus? What real difference would vaccinating children make?

    Only when these questions are answered would regulators give the green light to approve its use in millions of young children.

  7. How are vaccine passports being used in other countries?

    Beach
    Image caption: Will vaccine certificates enable summer travel?

    EU leaders are looking at how digital certificates - called the Green Digital Certificate - might work to enable travel across Europe in time for summer.

    The aim is to enable anyone who has been vaccinated against Covid-19, or who has tested negative, or recently recovered from the virus to travel within the EU.

    But some individual countries, such as Denmark and Estonia, have already outlined plans for so-called vaccine certificates. And outside of the EU, Israel has a working system in place.

    Israel has the highest vaccination rate in the world, with more than half the population having already received two doses, and last month it was able to begin easing a nationwide lockdown.

    A "Green Pass" is available to anyone who has been fully vaccinated or has recovered from Covid-19.

    To access some of the country's facilities - like hotels, gyms or theatres - people have to show their pass. It is available as a paper certificate or in an app, which links users to their health ministry data.

    The app opens the possibility of being used for international travel, and Israel has struck deals with Greece and Cyprus to allow its citizens with vaccination passports to travel to those two countries.

    Read more here.

  8. Analysis: 'Deep unease about scope of Coronavirus Act'

    Jonathan Blake

    BBC political correspondent

    Tonight's rebellion by 35 Conservatives won't trouble Boris Johnson, overall MPs backed the renewal of sweeping powers to respond to the pandemic.

    Many of the Tories who voted against the government have been persistent critics of its approach to restrictions and lockdowns.

    For them, it's about trust.

    Reassurances from ministers about powers only being used when necessary in extreme circumstances don't cut it.

    There is deep unease about the scope of these powers and the very fact they are available to the government, even if they're not being used.

    But the pandemic has changed expectations of what governments can and should do in extreme circumstances, freedoms considered sacrosanct have been suspended in the spirit of saving lives.

    The public may have been willing to largely comply, but there are at least a few dozen MPs willing to argue the price society has paid has been too high.

  9. 'We need sensible ways of living with Covid' - Sir Graham Brady

    Sir Graham Brady
    Image caption: Sir Graham Brady took part in the debate over whether to extend the Coronavirus Act

    A senior Tory backbencher who was among 35 of his party's MPs to vote against extending emergency coronavirus laws this afternoon says we need to find "ways of living sensibly" with Covid in future winters, as more lockdowns are not the answer.

    Sir Graham Brady tells Radio 4's PM programme there is a "fundamental question" stemming from the fact an endemic disease "might be coming back every winter for the foreseeable future".

    "If you are going to respond to say that the only reaction to that is to close down the country, to prevent people from seeing their families, to stop people from doing business and earning a living," he says, "then I think that's an apocalyptic vision that would definitely cause far more harm in terms both of deaths and mental health problems and economic devastation than the alternative.

    "So I think it's inevitable if we see this coming back in future years and future winters, which is entirely likely, we are going to have to find ways of living sensibly with a very nasty virus, which will include some restrictions.

    "But I don't think it's plausible to suggest that lockdown is the answer to that."

  10. Biden aims for 200 million jabs in first 100 days

    Biden

    US President Joe Biden says officials aim to deliver 200 million coronavirus jabs in the first 100 days of his administration.

    The target is double the original goal.

    "I believe we can do it," he says.

    After a slow start under the Trump presidency, the pace of vaccinations has been rapidly climbing.

    Biden says economic growth is now expected to exceed 6% this year as his recovery plan takes effect. He says there are still too many Americans out of work and hurting, but help is on the way.

    Biden has been making the comments in his first news conference since taking office.

  11. PM: 'I do badly need a hair cut'

    Video content

    Video caption: Johnson: 'I do badly need a hair cut'

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson admits he "badly" needs a haircut, but jokes that he's booked in to the pub.

    In video recorded shortly before an interview, he's asked if Carrie Symonds, his fiancée, might cut his hair, to which he responds "she's going to have another go, yeah".

  12. Dutch sign up for test holiday on Greek island

    Rhodes
    Image caption: The group will be given exclusive use of a hotel on the Greek island of Rhodes

    A Dutch travel firm will take nearly 200 people for an eight-day holiday in Greece aimed at seeing if tourism is feasible during the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Those picked will have an all-inclusive getaway on the island of Rhodes at a cost of €399 (£344; $472) per person, but there are some catches.

    They will not be allowed to leave the resort and will have to quarantine for up to ten days when they return home.

    At least 25,000 people have signed up for the government-backed experiment.

    The Dutch government's travel advice otherwise is that all foreign trips should be avoided, unless essential, until at least the middle of May.

    While many people may like to swap a life of lockdown for a week of Greek sunshine, questions have been raised about whether enabling such escapism is responsible or reckless at a time when both the infection rate and hospital admissions in the Netherlands are on the rise, the BBC's Anna Holligan reports.

    The Netherlands has recorded at least 16,536 deaths and 2,746,581 cases of infection during the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.

    But with public pressure mounting to allow summer holidays to go ahead, experiments like this one could help to determine whether there is a Covid-secure way to allow people to take an overseas break during the pandemic, she adds.

    Read more here.

  13. More than 700,000 in NI receive first dose of Covid vaccine

    More than 700,000 people in Northern Ireland have now received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

    It means that almost half the adult population - 703,334 people - have had at least one jab.

    The official figures showed that more than 104,907 people had now received a second dose.

    There have been no further Covid-related deaths recorded by NI's Department of health, meaning the total number of deaths remains at 2,107.

    Chart showing the latest coronavirus data in Northern Ireland

    The latest figures come after Health minister Robin Swann said on Wednesday that foreign travel in the summer should be ruled out.

    Mr Swann said Westminster and the devolved governments were discussing the so-called "red list" for foreign countries.

    He added that fragilities in NI's health system underlined the need for caution as lockdown eases.

    Professor Ultan Power, a virologist at Queen's University, said that at least 80% of the population of Northern Ireland should have two doses of a Covid vaccine before travel to Europe is allowed again.

    He told Good Morning Ulster: "If we have mass foreign travel we run the risk of picking up new variants that may not be covered by the vaccine and that could being us back to a pretty bad place."

  14. EU urges unity as leaders meet for key vaccine summit

    Sebastian Kurz
    Image caption: Austria's chancellor - pictured here at Thursday's summit - has complained about the EU's vaccine distribution

    European countries must not turn on each other amid growing tensions over Covid vaccine supplies, the president of the EU Parliament has said.

    The call for unity comes as EU leaders hold virtual talks to discuss supplies and improving distribution across the bloc's 27 member states.

    Some countries have complained that doses have not been distributed fairly.

    "There is no sense in us turning on each other, just as there is no sense in thinking that others are doing much better," European Parliament President David-Maria Sassoli said at a press conference.

    "The more unity we show, the more trust we will inspire," he added. "Salvation lies in working together."

    Vaccine rollouts in EU states have started sluggishly, and the bloc has blamed pharmaceutical companies - primarily AstraZeneca - for not delivering its promised doses. The company denies that it is failing to honour its contract.

    Read more here.

  15. BreakingUK records another 63 deaths

    The UK has recorded another 6,397 new infections and 63 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, according to the government's daily figures.

    Today's case numbers are up 94 on last Thursday's figure of 6,303 but the number of Covid-related deaths reported has fallen 32, compared with 95 last Thursday.

    Meanwhile, the latest vaccination figures show almost 29 million people have now received a first dose of a Covid vaccine.

    The exact figure is 28,991,188 - and 2,775,481 people have had their second dose.

  16. BreakingMPs vote to extend emergency coronavirus laws

    MPs have voted to extend emergency coronavirus laws for another six months.

    A total of 484 MPs were for the motion and 76 against giving a majority of 408.

  17. MPs go to vote on the Coronavirus Act

    MPs have finished debating whether to extend emergency coronavirus laws to the end of September and it's gone to a vote.

    Wrapping up the three and a half hour debate, Health and Social Care Minister Edward Argar says: "They are not measures any of us would choose to do were we not faced with such a grave situation," but, he says they are "necessary".

  18. Home-working staff ‘make better decisions’- Nationwide boss

    A Nationwide branch
    Image caption: Nationwide says UK staff may be able to work from their local High Street branch if they prefer, rather than travel to offices

    Nationwide is to allow 13,000 office staff to choose where they work under a new flexibility scheme.

    It comes after half of staff surveyed said they wanted to work from home full-time.

    The UK's biggest building society says its "work anywhere" plan will allow employees more control of their lives.

    Under the plan, Nationwide is closing three offices in Swindon, with 3,000 staff either moving to the nearby HQ, working from home, or mixing the two.

    Nationwide boss Joe Garner says “fundamentally” employees will have total control over where they work from.

    “Our report says people do still want to go to the office… they just don’t want to be compelled to go every day,” he tells Radio 4. “People are saying they need the flexibility.”

    Garner also suggests employees are making “better decisions” as a consequence of home-working.

    He says many organisations - not just Nationwide - have observed productivity benefits and benefits to well-being from flexible working. In the long term, he adds, there might also be environmental benefits.

    Garner insists the decision is not driven by cost, although he does think in time there will be cost benefits to Nationwide.

    The move by the building society comes as companies across the UK look into how to tackle the issue of remote versus office working once lockdown ends, with many backing a hybrid model marrying some office work with days working from home.

  19. 'Europeans must get fair share of vaccines'

    The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has told EU leaders that the bloc has exported 77 million doses of coronavirus vaccines since early December.

    The figure is greater than the number of inoculations given to EU citizens so far, and includes more than 30 million doses delivered to low and middle income countries under the global vaccine sharing scheme.

    View more on twitter

    Leaders at a virtual summit are debating the Commission's proposal to tighten export controls on vaccines as a way to boost supplies within the EU, as infections surge in many member states.

    Speaking to German MPs before the summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the EU's decision to procure vaccines jointly as the bloc struggles with delays in rollout.

    But some EU states, led by Austria, are calling for a revision in the distribution method after failing to obtain enough doses earlier this year.

  20. 'It was always obvious vaccine passports were going to come in'

    Vaccine card

    Prof Tim Spector, who leads the Covid Symptom Tracker app study run by King's College London, says any vaccine passport would have to be digital and people just have to "bite the bullet".

    He tells the PA news agency: "It was always obvious to me that vaccine passports were going to come in.

    "Bits of paper are not going to be that. It's got to be digital, it's got to be something on your phone, and I think that's going to be useful in some scenarios."

    Prof Spector says: "We just need to get used to it and bite the bullet, in a way, because it's going to affect our travel outside this country as well, so we might as well get our own system in order.

    "It has got to be a simple system - that should be quite possible - and everyone gets a unique code number from their vaccine that can be checked."