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Live Reporting

Edited by Claire Heald and James Clarke

All times stated are UK

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  1. What's happened today?

    We’ll soon be pausing our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. Before we go, here’s a round-up of today’s main headlines:

    Updates today were brought to you by Becky Morton, Claire Heald, Francesca Gillett, Georgina Rannard, Hamish Mackay, James Clarke, Kate Whannel, Katie Wright and Lucy Webster.

    Join us again tomorrow.

  2. 'Mask up!' Biden tells the US, as he unveils national plan

    Joe Biden speaking at his Covid presser

    US President Joe Biden is now speaking from the White House about how his administration will tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

    He says he has been meeting with his Covid response team, and it will “take months” to turn around the situation in the country.

    Today he is going to unveil a “national strategy” on Covid-19, he says, which is “comprehensive” and is based on “science and not politics”.

    The plan, which consists of 198 pages, will start with an “aggressive, safe and effective” vaccination campaign.

    But it will take months to protect everyone, he says, so in the meantime, "mask up", he tells the American people.

    Wearing a mask, he says, is "a patriotic act".

    To follow our coverage of his first day, head here.

  3. Wrexham vaccine plant protected from floods

    Video content

    Video caption: The BBC's Adam McClean reports on flooding in Wrexham

    Flooding has dominated many peoples lives in the UK today - and briefly threatened the effort to fight the pandemic.

    Emergency teams were called out to protect supplies of the Oxford University and AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine following flooding at a manufacturing site in Wales overnight.

    Excess water surrounded buildings at Wockhardt's pharmaceutical manufacturing facility on Wrexham Industrial Estate during heavy rainfall caused by Storm Christoph.

    The leader of Wrexham County Borough said that authorities worked "through the night" to ensure that the site was not overwhelmed by flood water.

    Mark Pritchard said resources such as gullies had been put in place to protect the vaccine storage facility on the industrial estate.

  4. Bamboo shipping hitches prompt fears for panda

    Kerry Allen

    Chinese Media Analyst

    One of the panda bears twins is pictured during receiving their favourite food as a present on a Christmas tree at the Zoo in Berlin, Germany.
    Image caption: The number of giant pandas is finally rebounding after years of decline

    There are concerns in China today about the health of Ya Ya, a giant panda that is currently on loan to Memphis Zoo in Tennessee, in the US.

    The national Global Times says that fears about the panda’s health span from a video that appeared on Chinese social media showing the panda appearing to be “skinny”.

    Chinese netizens are now urging the zoo to send the pandas “back home”.

    Giant pandas are a vulnerable species. They need to eat 12kg (26 lbs) to 38kg (84lbs) worth of bamboo each day to maintain their energy needs.

    However, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it logistically difficult to ship bamboo to the pandas worldwide. This has already made Canadian and Japanese zoos arrange for the animals to be sent back to China.

    This is not the first time Chinese social media users have expressed concerns about the health of a giant panda in the US. In November, social media users also voiced concern about whether Mei Xiang, a panda at Washington Zoo, was receiving enough food.

    The practise of sending pandas to other countries, known as “panda diplomacy” is an important way of showing a country’s close ties with China. Any maltreatment of one can seriously rupture a country’s relationship with China.

  5. Vaccine supplies 'diverted from North to rest of England'

    A woman having a vaccine

    Covid-19 vaccine supplies in Yorkshire and the North East are to be reduced and diverted to other parts of England.

    The Health Service Journal has reported that the number of doses sent to GPs in both areas - which have the highest vaccination rates among over-80s - could be halved from next week.

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the move would allow vulnerable groups around the country to get their jabs.

    But some regional leaders branded the move an "absolute disgrace".

    It comes after figures showed the proportion of the population of over-80s vaccinated in London and the east of England was lower than in other areas.

  6. Nissan to pause some production in UK

    Japanese car maker Nissan will pause work on one of the production lines at its Sunderland plant on Friday due to supply chain issues caused by the pandemic.

    Global shipping issues caused by the crisis have left UK manufacturers faces a shortage of parts in recent months, as containers and goods get stuck in the wrong ports.

    Nissan’s rival Honda has paused production at its Swindon plant several times since December due to the disruption.

    Nissan, which produces Qashqai and Leaf cars in Sunderland, said: "Production on Line One at the plant has been paused due to supply chain disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,"

    "We anticipate that production will resume on Monday next week."

  7. Biden to speak soon on his Covid 'fight plan'

    President Biden is due to give more details about his action plan to boost the fight against Covid-19, which has ravaged America.

    Earlier, he said he would sign 10 executive orders, and the administration has already unveiled a seven-point plan which included efforts to facilitate effective distribution of vaccines and reliable access to testing.

    In a break with his predecessor, Trump, Biden is stressing the need to have a federal strategy rather than relying on individual US states to decide what is best.

    Read more about Biden's Covid executive orders here.

  8. Why hasn't the UK banned all international flights?

    Eleanor Lawrie

    BBC News

    A woman arriving at Heathrow airport

    Everyone entering the UK now has go into quarantine, after the government suspended its travel corridors with other specific destinations.

    Travel is only permitted for essential reasons and people entering the UK must show evidence of a recent negative coronavirus test before boarding their flight.

    The country has also extended a travel ban to South America, Portugal and many African countries, amid concerns about new, potentially more infectious variants of coronavirus.

    But it has never banned international travel altogether.

    Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, says that by far the best time for the UK to have introduced a travel ban would have been back in January 2020, when the virus was first identified in China.

    But he warns closing the borders is "not a silver bullet".

    You can read more about the arguments for and against travel bans here.

  9. Offshore platform shut down amid Covid cases

    The FPF-1 floating production facility is in the North Sea

    Production on a North Sea platform has been shut down because of a Covid-19 outbreak.

    Four crew members from Ithaca Energy's FPF-1 floating production facility in the North Sea, about 150 miles (240km) east of Aberdeen, have tested positive for the virus.

    They have been taken off the platform, while close contacts are in quarantine and are also being taken onshore.

    Ithaca Energy said production on the FPF-1 had been shut to ensure the safety of all those onboard.

    Read more.

  10. How do introverts cope in lockdown? Marian Keyes knows...

    Marian Keyes

    Away from the party-goers and the fines, Irish novelist Marian Keyes has been sharing some of her tips on coping with lockdown with BBC Radio 4's World at One programme.

    She said being an "acute introvert" who is used to working from home meant she found it easier to manage without human contact than others might.

    Keyes said she found breaking down time into "manageable" chunks and focusing on small tasks was "the best way to survive something uncomfortable or grim or bleak" without becoming overwhelmed.

    The author has also been running writing workshops on Instagram Live, setting daily challenges to help people fill their time during lockdown.

    “It has been so rewarding for me to do it," she said.

    "People have talked about the fact that they are unemployed and they are at home and they don’t know how to pass the time. But when they see my writing prompt in the morning it gives them something to do.”

  11. Isle of Man to begin easing lockdown restrictions

    Isle of Man flag

    The Isle of Man will begin easing its lockdown restrictions this weekend.

    From Saturday, socially distanced outdoor meetings will be permitted and trades will be allowed to return to work under certain rules.

    The island entered a second lockdown on 7 January following a rise in cases.

    Chief Minister Howard Quayle said the island had to "tread carefully" as restrictions were relaxed but the changes were the start of the "path back to normality".

    He added that, “subject to no further community cases”, the remaining restrictions could be lifted "as early as 1 February".

    There have been no new cases of Covid-19 on the island for three days and the number of active cases has fallen to 48.

    You can read the full story here.

  12. Record flu vaccination rates

    Robert Cuffe

    BBC head of statistics

    Public Health England’s weekly data has some positive news.

    Flu vaccinations are at record levels – up by about 10% in over-65s, young children and higher-risk under-65s compared with last year.

    Amid all the talk of vaccine scepticism, it’s a reminder of how many people are keen on vaccines.

    Last week, PHE reported a rise in coronavirus outbreaks in care homes and in case numbers in the over-80s.

    These haven’t been sustained in this week’s figures, covering the week up to 17 January.

    PHE reports that case numbers are falling across regions and age groups.

    But the cloud to the silver lining is that hospitalisation rates are still high and rising in most parts of the country.

    And with studies reporting that infections might not be falling as quickly as the case numbers suggest, this pressure will continue for some time to come.

  13. Birmingham mosque opens doors for vaccinations

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    Video caption: Covid-19: Birmingham mosque opens doors for vaccinations

    A mosque in Birmingham has been welcoming in people for jabs, after opening as a vaccination clinic.

    It is thought that Al-Abbas Islamic Centre is the first mosque in the country to do so.

    The mosque's Imam Sheikh Nuru Mohammed urged people to be immunised saying "there is nothing to worry about".

    It follows concern about scepticism towards the vaccine in some Muslim communities.

    Some fake news about the vaccine seen by the BBC is also religiously targeted. Messages falsely claim the vaccines contain animal produce - eating pork goes against the religious beliefs of Muslims.

  14. Portugal closes all schools for 15 days

    Alison Roberts

    Portugal Correspondent, Lisbon

    Portugal's government has announced the closure of all schools and other educational institutions for 15 days from tomorrow, with no provision for remote learning to replace face-to-face classes, as part of attempts to limit the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

    The whole of mainland Portugal has been under lockdown since Friday, with still tighter restrictions having come into force yesterday, but all schools, colleges and universities remained open.

    Announcing the decision, which was taken at today's regular weekly cabinet meeting, the prime minister, António Costa, said that although schools "were not and are not the main focus of transmission" of the virus, the government had decided to apply the "precautionary principle".

    He also cited the rapid spread of the "UK strain" of the virus - which hesaid this week accounted for 20% of new cases and could "in the coming weeks" account for 60% - as a factor in the decision.

    The prime minister warned that a move aimed above all at protecting pupils and staff should not prompt people to flout lockdown rules - such as the obligation to wear masks in public places where physical distancing is not possible.

    Classes that do not take place over the next two weeks will be compensated for later in the school year, in ways to be agreed with headteachers, he said.

    Portugal has today reported the highest number of deaths associated with Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours, and 13,544 new confirmed cases - the second-highest daily figure, after yesterday's 14,647.

  15. The practicalities of enforcement

    Chris Mason

    Political Correspondent

    A few more thoughts on the communications balance the government faces on enforcing Covid rules and the practicalities the police face doing exactly the same.

    There were just under 130,000 police officers in England and Wales at the end of March last year.

    The population of England and Wales is about 60 million.

    Clearly, there aren't enough officers to police whether you or me are nipping around to the neighbours' for a glass of wine.

    And is it a glass of wine or is it a legitimate and legal support bubble?

    No one actually knows from an enforcement point of view - because what happens inside a private home is private.

    Except, of course, when it's so loud the whole street can hear it and the police are called.

    These breaches - which most would regard as outrageous - are easier to spot, to police and easier to secure the backing of the majority for the toughest policing.

    Hence, these new measures: tough new measures likely to be supported by the vast majority.

    The government keeps the vast majority on side with this particular measure and they tool the police with greater powers to deal with the problem.

    But, how we all behave, hour by hour, day by day, with potentially minor breaches here and there, has the potential - cumulatively - to be much more significant when it comes to transmission of the virus.

    But the government and the police only realistically have one tool there: persuasion; the hope we will be responsible.

    Ministers will also hope that by being seen to be tough on the worst rule breakers, it won't leave the rest of us feeling like mugs for doing our bit.

  16. Watch: Patel announces party-goer fine

    Video content

    Video caption: Covid-19: Priti Patel announces £800 house party fine

    Home Secretary Priti Patel said the police had her "absolute backing" to enforce coronavirus restrictions, as she announced a new fine for people attending house parties.

    The £800 fine, for people attending illegal gatherings of more than 15 people, will double with each repeat offence up to a maximum of £6,400.

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

    Today's government press conference was led by Home Secretary Priti Patel. She was joined by the chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council, Martin Hewitt, and NHS England's Regional Director for London Dr Vin Diwakar.

    Here's what they told us:

    • From next week, the police in England will be able to issue a first fine of £800 to anyone attending a house party, up from £200
    • The fine will double for each infraction, up to a maximum of £6,400
    • It will apply to any gathering of more than 15 people in homes
    • Between August and 17 January, police in England have issued 250 fines to people organising large gatherings of more than 30 people. Each of these fines is for £10,000
    • There was encouragement for those from minority backgrounds to get the vaccine when they are called
  18. Reality Check

    Are we leaving our homes more?

    Home Secretary Priti Patel reiterated the government’s message that people should “stay at home” as much as possible.

    Mobility data from Google, Apple and the Department for Transport suggests that people are leaving the home more than during the first lockdown.

    On 8 January, the first Friday of this lockdown, people were driving at twice the rate they were on the first Friday of the March 2020 lockdown.

    Similar data from Google shows that a higher proportion of people were in workplaces, parks and grocery stores last Friday compared with the first lockdown.

    However, comparing the two lockdowns is difficult because more things are open this time, including nurseries, garden centres and estate agents. This could explain why people are outside more than before.

    BBC Reality Check has looked at the numbers.

  19. Vaccine queue jumpers 'morally reprehensible'

    The final question is about figures from Oxford University earlier this week which suggested the UK had the worst daily coronavirus death rate in the world. The home secretary is asked whether it was a mistake to relax rules over Christmas?

    Priti Patel says the number of people that have died with Covid is an “absolute tragedy” but the government approach has always been to be guided by the advice from scientists.

    Asked whether people who jump the queue for the vaccine should be fined, she says people who do that are "morally reprehensible” as they are putting the lives of vulnerable people at risk.

    She says all the government’s measures are under review but ”our focus is getting that vaccine to the most vulnerable to make sure we can protect them and obviously protect others in the community”.

  20. Vaccine concerns date back to unethical experiments

    On reticence, The Times's Steve Swinford asks if police officers should be vaccinated ahead of those in their 50s and if there is data about which groups are more likely to refuse a vaccination.

    Mr Hewitt says he wants police officers to be vaccinated "at the earliest opportunity" and that he has raised this with the prime minister.

    Dr Vin Diwakar says some communities have "entirely legitimate concerns" about the vaccines.

    He says there are "long-standing concerns" in some Asian and black communities that go back generations, dating back to "unethical experiments" done in the early part of the last century.

    However seeking to reassure those who are reluctant, he says he is convinced that "this is a safe and effective vaccine".