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Live Reporting

Edited by James Clarke and Emma Owen

All times stated are UK

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  1. That's it for tonight

    Thanks for joining us. We'll be back tomorrow with more live coverage of the pandemic. As ever, the website will continue to be updated overnight and you'll find any major stories on the front page.

    Today's contributors were Alexandra Fouché, Jo Couzens, Hamish Mackay, Alex Therrien, Sophie Williams, and Jennifer Scott.

  2. What's happened in the UK today?

    A woman walking in front of coronavirus advert

    We'll soon be bringing our live coverage to an end for the day. Before we do, here is a round-up of the main UK stories today.

  3. Headlines from around the world today

    France rugby team
    Image caption: It is not known which players have tested positive

    Here are some of the biggest stories from around the world today

    • France’s Six Nations rugby match against Scotland this week has been postponed after an 11th player tested positive for the virus
    • France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex says the situation in some parts of France is “worrying”. He said the country recorded more than 30,000 cases on Wednesday
    • A single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe and effective, US regulators have confirmed. It is set to become the third Covid vaccine authorised in the US, potentially during the next few days
    • Organisers of the Tokyo Olympics have confirmed that the Games’ torch relay will begin next month as planned but spectators will be asked to only attend sections of the relay taking place near their home and wear a mask
    • Israel is to impose a night-time curfew starting at 20:30 (18:30 GMT) for three nights from this evening to curb the spread of the virus during the Jewish holiday of Purim
    • Hungary is extending its partial lockdown until 15 March as cases there continue to rise
  4. Covid survivor 'has no memory' of two months in hospital

    John Biddle in hospital

    A 49-year-old man who was on a life support machine with Covid-19 nearly a year ago says he still has "no memory" of those two months of his life.

    John Biddle, from Bristol, was admitted to hospital on 27 March and within days was on life support in London.

    His wife was told he might not survive - but John says he "doesn't remember anything" and his last memory was being at the Cheltenham races.

    "It's probably a good thing, from what I understand I went through," he says.

    You can read more about John here.

  5. Tap-dancing mother and son become lockdown sensation

    Video content

    Video caption: Lizzi and her eight year old son Rufus have been sharing their routines online

    When the pandemic hit, choreographer and dance teacher Lizzi Gee found herself out of work.

    In order to stay positive and keep busy, the mum-of-two from Thames Ditton decided to use her new-found spare time to teach her son Rufus to tap dance.

    Now the eight-year-old has become a dancing sensation - their mother and son routines attract millions of hits online.

  6. London wedding venues 'booked up for two years', says planner

    Wedding venue

    A wedding planner from London claims many venues across the city are booked until 2023, as more people start to plan their weddings.

    Rebecca Brennan-Brown, who runs her business from Soho, tells the BBC the wedding industry is showing signs of recovery.

    On Monday it was announced all restrictions on wedding ceremonies would be lifted no sooner than 21 June.

    "The second Boris Johnson stopped talking, my phone started ringing non-stop," she says.

    "Many venues in London are completely booked out until 2023 and those that aren't yet have hiked up their wedding packages by about 15%."

    You can read the full interview here.

  7. Thousands sign petition against vaccine passports

    A vaccine with a card

    A petition urging the government not to introduce vaccine passports could be debated by MPs after it gained close to 200,000 signatures.

    The online petition says the passports could be "used to restrict the rights of people who have refused a Covid-19 vaccine".

    Any parliamentary petition signed by over 100,000 people must be considered for a debate in Westminster Hall, the Commons' second chamber.

    On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a review of vaccine certificates or passports.

    Proof of vaccination could allow people to travel or attend large events.

    Vaccination is not mandatory, and the petition says passports "would be unacceptable".

    Read more

  8. Czech Republic to receive vaccines from France

    Pfizer vaccine vials

    The Czech Republic is to receive 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from France, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has confirmed.

    As we mentioned earlier, the Czech Republic is currently dealing with a sharp rise in cases. According to Our World in Data, it has more new cases per million in the past seven days than other country in the world.

    On Thursday, lawmakers will meet to discuss the tightening of restrictions in the country.

    France said it was examining requests from other nations to “borrow” doses that would then be sent back in April, Reuters news agency reports. The Czech Republic has already received doses from Israel.

    Presently, the Czech Republic has only vaccinated 600,000 people in a country of 10.7 million.

    Babis said he had reached out to other countries for assistance.

  9. Almost 40% of all Covid fines came in recent four-week period

    Police in London

    A police chief has blamed lockdown "fatigue" for a rise in Covid-19 rulebreakers as new figures show almost 40% of all fines issued for breaches of coronavirus regulations came in just four weeks.

    Data published by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) shows a total of 68,952 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were issued by forces, including 63,201 in England and 5,751 in Wales, between 27 March last year and 14 February.

    Some 26,277 (38%) of those were issued in the latest four-week period between 17 January and 14 February.

    NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt says police have stepped up enforcement action since November last year and deployed extra officers in areas that had seen the most serious breaches.

    He says there has always been a "hard core" of people who choose not to follow the rules, but adds: "I think it probably is fair to say that, and I've used the phrase before, there is no question there is a fatigue in the country, among the population.

    "We've been living with this for 11 months, it's really hard, it's very restrictive on people's lives."

  10. Bangladesh vaccinates sex workers

    A woman receives a vaccine in Dhaka
    Image caption: Three million people have been vaccinated so far in Bangladesh

    Bangladesh has started vaccinating sex workers in the country’s largest brothel due to their vulnerability to the virus.

    At least 100 sex workers at the site in Daulatdia have already been vaccinated, Asif Mahmud health chief of the town confirmed.

    “It is very necessary to vaccinate the sex workers. Thousands of people visit the brothel every day and the sex workers at the massive brothel are most vulnerable to the virus,” Mahmud told AFP news agency.

    Prostitution is legal for women over 18 in Bangladesh.

    One worker told AFP that she hoped the vaccination would increase client numbers as many are worried about the virus.

    Bangladesh has recorded 544,544 cases and 8,379 deaths since the pandemic began.

  11. Fall in seven-day averages for UK cases and deaths

    While daily totals for Covid figures in the UK can fluctuate due to delays in reporting around the weekend, the seven-day averages give us a fair impression of the current situation.

    The seven-day average for deaths in the UK is 383, after a further 323 were reported yesterday.

    Covid deaths graphic

    For cases, the seven-day average is now 10,189, after a further 9,985 positive tests were recorded yesterday.

    Covid cases graphic

    Meanwhile, the latest available data suggests there are currently more than 16,000 people in hospital with Covid.

    Covid hospital graphic
  12. Situation in parts of France 'worrying,' says PM

    Jean Castex speaks at a press conference

    The situation in some parts of France is “worrying,” French Prime Minister Jean Castex has said.

    Speaking during a televised address, he said about 20 regional departments - including the entire greater Paris region - should consider partial weekend lockdowns such as the one currently in place in Nice.

    "The health situation in our country has worsened over recent days. Yesterday we reported over 30,000 positive cases, a figure we haven’t recorded since last November,” he said.

    He warned that the virus had been gaining ground over the past week and said time was needed to give the vaccination campaign to have an effect.

    However he said a country-wide lockdown is not on the cards.

    France has recorded 3,721,061 cases and 85,473 deaths since the pandemic began.

  13. Alert level drop due to public's 'remarkable efforts' - Whitty

    Following the announcement the UK's alert level has been lowered from five - the highest - to four, England's chief medical offcer, Prof Chris Whitty says the public's efforts have been "remarkable" - but cases are still high.

    View more on twitter
  14. Syria receives first batch of vaccines

    Syria will begin vaccinating healthcare workers next week after receiving its first batch of vaccines, the country’s health minister has confirmed.

    Hassan Ghabash didn’t say where the vaccines had come from, telling state media that the doses were from a “friendly country”.

    Syria is part of Covax, a vaccine sharing scheme which aims to reduce the divide between rich countries and poorer nations unable to buy doses.

    The World Health Organisation said on Wednesday that it expects the first shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine to arrive in the country by the end of next month, AFP news agency reports.

    The country has been ravaged by the conflict there that has lasted almost ten years. Syria's healthcare sector has struggled as workers left the country.

    Syria has confirmed 15,343 cases and 1,008 deaths since the pandemic began.

  15. 'We should be under no illusions' despite alert level change

    A person in a mask by a poster saying urging people to stay at home because of Coronavirus

    As we reported a little earlier, the coronavirus alert level for the UK has been lowered from five, the highest level, to four.

    The four UK chief medical officers and NHS England's national medical director have agreed the change following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre.

    In a joint statement they say: "The health services across the four nations remain under significant pressure with a high number of patients in hospital, however thanks to the efforts of the public we are now seeing numbers consistently declining, and the threat of the NHS and other health services being overwhelmed within 21 days has receded.

    "We should be under no illusions - transmission rates, hospital pressures and deaths are still very high. In time, the vaccines will have a major impact and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated when they receive the offer.

    "However for the time being it is really important that we all - vaccinated or not - remain vigilant and continue to follow the guidelines.

    "We know how difficult the situation has been and remains to be for healthcare workers, we thank them for their immense effort, skill and professionalism throughout the pandemic."

    There's more detail on how the alert level works here.

  16. Trees to be planted in honour of Captain Sir Tom Moore

    Captain Sir Tom with his daughters Lucy Teixeira (left) and Hannah Ingram-Moore (right)
    Image caption: Captain Sir Tom with his daughters Lucy Teixeira (left) and Hannah Ingram-Moore (right)

    The family of Captain Sir Tom Moore have called for trees to be planted around the world in his honour to create a "living legacy".

    The 100-year-old Army veteran, who raised almost £33m for NHS charities by walking laps of his garden in Marston Moretaine, died on 2 February.

    Through the Trees for Tom campaign, a "legacy forest" will be planted by two charities on behalf of his family.

    His daughters, Lucy Teixeira and her sister Hannah Ingram-Moore, said lots of people have asked what they could do to honour him "other than cards and cut flowers" and this gave them the idea of donating to charities to plant trees in his name.

    They have chosen the UK's largest woodland conservation charity, The Woodland Trust, to carry out the work in this country and TreeSisters to plant trees internationally.

  17. Vaccine centre job 'best thing I have ever done'

    BBC Radio 5 Live

    Dr Hilary Flett

    BBC 5 Live has been at an NHS vaccination hub in St Helens today - based at the stadium of the town's famous rugby league club.

    Inside there are two vaccinations centres - one run by the town’s 33 GP surgeries, and a separate mass vaccination centre run by the NHS which covers the whole of Cheshire and Merseyside.

    Together they’re vaccinating 2,000 people a day. The clinical lead for the GP-led site is Dr Hilary Flett.

    “It’s the best thing I have ever done in my professional career," she says. "The joy and gratefulness and thankfulness we are getting from our patients is such a massive boost.

    “It’s been a logistical conundrum to set it up so it’s great to see it up and running. In St Helens we started planning last summer, even though there wasn’t any national guidance at that point, because we realised that even to provide vaccines for our flu people we were going to have to keep social distancing.

    “We are 33 practices working together but we don’t have a big swish premises, so Saints seemed the obvious location. We knew how to work it and just scaled it up.”

  18. NI pathway out of lockdown due on Monday

    First Minister Arlene Foster says the pathway out of lockdown for Northern Ireland will be published early next week, and that the executive will be "guided by the data, not by dates".

    "We are obliged not to keep the restrictions in place any longer than is necessary, or any longer than it is appropriate," she says.

    The pathway is due to be published in Monday.

    She also says no changes have yet been made to the plans for how pupils will return to schools but says there is "a desire to avoid year one to three pupils returning on 8 March, but then having to revert back to remote learning for a number of days before the Easter break".

  19. Get used to fewer trains, warns rail body

    Railway station concourse

    About 10% fewer train services should run once the country opens up again, compared with the pre-pandemic timetable, the chair of Network Rail says.

    The old pattern of five days of peak commuter travel may not return, Sir Peter Hendy has warned the National Rail Recovery conference.

    Instead, leisure travel might boost weekend traffic, especially if limits on international travel continue.

    Commuter traffic could return to 80% of pre-pandemic levels and may remain there for the next one to three years, he suggests.

    Passenger numbers fell steeply in March last year when the pandemic struck and have only partially recovered since. Many commuters are working from home and some businesses remain closed.

    The government's timetable foresees a gradual opening up of the economy over the coming months. However some firms have already signalled some workers may continue to work from home for some of their working week.

  20. WATCH: The colourful fridges popping up on US streets

    Video content

    Video caption: The colourful fridges popping up on American streets

    Before the pandemic, more than 35 million people struggled with hunger in the US, according to NGO Feeding America. It estimates more than 50 million people may experience food insecurity in 2020.

    The Biden administration says it is taking steps to address the food crisis but that will take time.

    Meanwhile, communities have filled the gap during the pandemic, by coming up with novel ways to feed those in need.