We're wrapping up for the evening. Thanks for joining our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic today - we'll be back tomorrow with more updates from around the world.
Today's posts were written by Hazel Shearing, Jen Meierhans, Francesca Gillett, Paul Seddon, Sinead Wilson and David Walker.
They were edited by Rob Corp, James Clarke and Claire Heald.
US set to pass 500,000 deaths - and other world updates
The US is expected to top 500,000 deaths from the pandemic on Monday - a grim milestone that will be marked in a ceremony at the White House by President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, Vice
President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff.
"They will ask all Americans to join in a moment of silence
during a candle lighting ceremony at sundown," White House
spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a news conference.
China lifted all remaining local lockdowns on Monday. No new domestically transmitted cases have been detected in the past 24 hours, according to government statistics - and that has been the case for the past couple of weeks
In Germany, many schools reopened today, although officials say infection rates remain worryingly high. Only in two western states - Baden-Württemberg and Saarland - is the weekly average infection rate below 50 per 100,000 inhabitants. It is above that target level in the other 14 federal states
Air New Zealand says it will trial a new digital health pass designed to help streamline safe international travel
Portugal's devastating third wave of coronavirus infections is subsiding and officials say the country now has one of Europe's lowest transmission rates. Just weeks ago, Portugal was one of the world's worst-hit countries and fellow EU members were sending emergency medical teams to help out
Analysis: Whitty's frustration hints at toxic debate around schools
The frustration felt by UK chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty when he was asked about newspaper reports over recent days that he was opposed to children going back to school en-masse was clear to see.
He said children had been badly disadvantaged by schools having to stop face-to-face teaching so he was completely in favour of the move and was surprised it had been reported, given he had denied it.
It is an illustration of the toxic debate that has surrounded the re-opening of schools with scientists and teaching unions arguing aggressively about what the evidence shows.
Watch: Masks could still be the norm next winter - Vallance
During this evening's No 10 press conference, UK government chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said working from home could also be expected to continue until next winter.
Portugal's third wave eases as cases tumble
Portugal Correspondent, Lisbon
Getty ImagesCopyright: Getty Images
Portugal's huge third wave of coronavirus infections looks to have
subsided - five weeks into a lockdown that was imposed as its rates of new cases and
deaths were soaring to the top of the global rankings.
Recent days have seen a "very significant drop" in infections,
epidemiologists said at a briefing in Lisbon on
Nationally, the transmission rate (R rate) is at its lowest since the start of
the pandemic and is thought to be currently the lowest in Europe.
There are still 80,642 active cases, according to today's bulletin, but the lockdown imposed
in mid-January has had its effect. The number of patients in hospital with
Covid-19 is now less than half the level of three weeks ago.
Still, the government has warned that it expects to extend the lockdown
until at least the end of next month and President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa favours its
remaining in place over Easter, in early April.
While the programme of vaccination against the disease is under way, the
same supply problems as in the rest of the EU mean that it is
going more slowly than originally hoped.
Overall, Portugal has confirmed 798,074 cases and 16,023 deaths from Covid-19.
Boris Johnson said that “all the evidence shows that schools are safe and the risks posed to children by Covid is small”, as he announced that all schools will reopen in England from 8 March.
It is true that children are far less likely to become seriously ill from the virus than older people, but the role schools play in the spread of the virus overall is not clear-cut.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises the government on the pandemic, has said there is no clear evidence that schools are the driving force behind broader community spikes.
"It is difficult to quantify the size of this effect and it remains difficult to quantify the level of transmission taking place specifically within schools compared to other settings," Sage reported in November.
At the government briefing, England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty added the Easter holidays would act as a “natural firebreak” and the risk of transmission would be lowered further by increased testing and the wider use of masks in schools.
Imagining what 500,000 lost lives look like
The US will soon top 500,000 deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic - more than the American death tolls from World War One, World War Two and the Vietnam War combined.
Later on Monday, President Joe Biden will lead a candle-lighting ceremony and a moment of silence at the White House to mark the grim milestone.
How will the road map go down politically?
The prime minister struck a largely optimistic tone tonight .He was unveiling a "one-way road to freedom".
But it’s not clear that the journey will end on 21 June.
That’s the earliest date in the road map for the lifting of
restrictions in England.
But at his press conference, Boris Johnson was careful to
say this is when "most" restrictions will be lifted.
The accompanying document has made clear "the government cannot rule out re-imposing economic
and social restrictions at a local or regional level... to suppress a variant which
escapes the vaccine".
But even if that pessimistic pandemic twist doesn’t
happen, at the end of the vaccination programme only two-thirds of
the population will be inoculated.
That’s largely because children aren’t being vaccinated.
So while 21 June could be the day when rules
governing how many of us can meet and where will end, some of the now familiar paraphernalia of the pandemic could
be with us for some time - some degree of social distancing, testing, and, yes, self-isolation.
And Boris Johnson pointed out that quite a few
matters are under review including the "complex" issue of whether to issue
And while overall the prime minister was upbeat - "spring is on its way" - his medical and scientific advisers managed to restrain any
There were warnings that Covid-19 could still be with us for
Sir Patrick Vallance talked about mask wearing during winter
And that’s worrying some of Boris Johnson's own MPs.
They say he is already moving far too
slowly down "Freedom Road" and fear that he may yet do a U-turn and head, to
them, back in the wrong direction.
What did we learn about lockdown easing from the presser?
Here are the highlights from tonight's Downing Street press conference:
The PM says the UK is on "a one-way road to freedom" with the vaccine programme creating a "shield" around the population. He says the "unparalleled national effort has shifted the odds in our favour"
Johnson described 12 April as "a big moment" when outdoor hospitality and shops reopen
He says he understands those pushing for a faster unlocking but "we must be humble in the face of nature". Once restrictions are lifted however, "we will not go back"
Whitty says infection rates are "still very high" but the rollout of vaccines is "extraordinary". He says there is "quite a way to go" to get hospital admissions down but we are making "very fast progress" across the UK
He adds "we are taking a risk but it is an accepted risk" that can't be measured in less than 4 weeks with another week then needed to analyse the data
Vallance agrees and says the cautious approach of releasing more measures only every 5 weeks is very important
Johnson tells the BBC "this isn't the end today" but it's a road map that "takes us to the end". He says ministers will be guided by the data because people "would rather see certainty than haste"
Johnson adds that he can't guarantee if the easing of restrictions will be irreversible but it is his "intention" that they will be
Vallance says it is right to prioritise getting children back to school and that the environment has been made "progressively more safe"
"The crocus of hope is poking through the frost" says the PM but he won't be "buccaneering with people's lives"
Masks may be needed next winter says Vallance along with good hand hygiene.
On the question of whether vaccines should be compulsory as a condition of employment, Whitty says in his professional view, social care and medical staff should get jabbed, but it is a political decision for ministers
Social care and NHS staff have duty to get vaccine - Whitty
During the Downing Street briefing the scientific advisers were asked why secondary school children should continue to wear masks in school and what the evidence is for
Sir Patrick Vallance says they will "add to the protection" afforded by handwashing and social distancing.
They are also asked whether vaccination could be a condition of employment in the social care sector, amid reports of low take up.
Chris Whitty says he considers it a "professional responsibility" for medics and social care staff get themselves vaccinated to protect patients, but contracts are a "political question" not for him.
Asked about the long-term consequences of home working, Boris Johnson says he does not believe this will lead to a "fundamental change" to office working, although some "trends" may be "accelerated".
He says he is sure cities will be "full of buzz and life and excitement again" as long as people feel safe - and he is "sceptical" it will lead to a "massive change in urban life".
That's a wrap at Downing Street, folks
That's the end of the No 10 briefing.
Stay tuned for analysis of the prime minister's plan for easing lockdown in England - and the latest reaction.
Vallance: 'Baseline' measures next winter
Pippa Crerar from the Mirror asks when we might be able to go back to the office or to hug and kiss loved ones, and whether the PM can reassure people about job losses.
Sir Patrick Vallance says we can expect "baseline" measures next winter. For example, mask-wearing "in certain situations", hand hygiene, staying away from work if we have symptoms and a test, trace and isolate system.
But he says these are not the same as measures we have now.
On job losses, Boris Johnson says the government "will of course support" businesses and that the chancellor will set out more details in the Budget next week.
He says he hopes the plan "will be reassuring" for businesses in the hospitality sector.
Whitty defends school reopening plan
Chris Whitty is asked whether he is happy with the PM's plan to bring all schoolchildren back from 8 March instead of opting for a phased return (as is happening in Scotland and Wales).
Prof Whitty says he is "surprised" at newspaper reports he was unhappy at the idea - and had denied this to journalists before it was printed.
He adds that the risk to children is "so much smaller" than for adults, and will be even smaller due to interventions such as testing, favouring a return to the classroom because of the other benefits.
UK government chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance says getting children back to school is "crucial" and waiting five weeks to see the effect is "the right thing to do".
Asked whether he has become a "gloomster" - a word he has used to refer to political opponents in the past - the PM says his plan is about as "dynamic" as "it is possible to be".
Analysis: We cannot stop Covid deaths completely
Despite all the progress with vaccination, UK chief medical
adviser Chris Whitty is adamant we cannot stop Covid deaths
During a bad flu season, 9,000 people can die. During the
winter of 2017-18, deaths topped 20,000.
Prof Whitty said going forward it was important to see Covid
deaths in that context.
Modelling produced for the government by Imperial College
London suggested there could be 30,000 deaths by the summer of 2022. And that
was the optimistic scenario with a slow lifting of restrictions.
PM: 'I can't guarantee it's going to be irreversible'
Sky News' Sam Coates asks whether the PM would resign if England had to be locked down again. He also asks if it's possible for this progress to be irreversible.
Boris Johnson says: "I can't guarantee that it's going to be irreversible but the intention is that it should be."
He says last year showed Covid is capable "of spreading really very fast when you unlock " - which is why there must be time to assess the data.
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance says vaccines are a "miracle", but it is important to "go cautiously as you release, have enough time between measures... and take new measures to release when you're safe to do so - not before".
Covid cases 'should be kept to low level,' says Whitty
The panel is asked what an acceptable level of infection is as restrictions are eased, given a target for the R infection rate is not mentioned in the road map document.
Prof Chris Whitty says the vaccine has broken the "tight linkage" that used to exist between cases, hospitalisations and deaths, but surges should still be "kept to a low level".
Asked whether so-called 'vaccine passports' will be used to reopen the economy, Boris Johnson says other countries will insist upon them to allow people to enter their borders.
On whether certificates could be used domestically, he says there are "ethical" issues about how they might be used and the potential for discrimination.
This is why, he says, the government has commissioned a review of the issue. He says "there may be a role" for certification but "we have to get it right".
Steps not 'an invitation to do a lot more'
Responding to a question about dates from the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg, the PM says: "This isn't the end today but it's very clearly a road map that takes us to the end."
He adds ministers will be "guided by the data".
And in response to her question about how many deaths we should be prepared for as a result of lifting the rules, Prof Whitty says: "Every year in the UK... you get substantial numbers of people dying from respiratory infections."
He adds: "For the foreseeable future, coronavirus is going to be added to that list of things."
He says the priority for vaccination is getting through adult groups, before children.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific adviser, urges people to stick to the rules.
He says each stage of easing "isn't an invitation to do a lot more".
UK looking to source more vaccine under current contracts - PM
The first question from the public is about how the UK will make sure people can get their second dose 12 weeks after the first.
Boris Johnson replies that he believes the UK has the supplies to ensure this happens - adding "we are looking to source more where we can" within existing contracts.
There's a second question from the public, on whether the UK will make a "fair and equitable" donation of surplus vaccines once the more vulnerable groups have received their jab.