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Live Reporting

Edited by Rob Corp

All times stated are UK

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  1. Thank you - and goodbye

    That's all from today's live page. Your writers were Alex Kleiderman and Victoria Lindrea. Today's editor was Rob Corp.

    We'll be back again tomorrow morning for more continuing coverage.

  2. The latest headlines

    People participate in a protest against the lockdown, in central London
    Image caption: Crowds marched from Hyde Park to Westminster as part of an anti-lockdown protest

    Here's a round-up of what has been happening around the UK and across the World on Saturday

    • Health Secretary Matt Hancock says more than half of the UK's adult population have now received their first jab - with official figures on Saturday confirming 26,853,407 people have been given their initial vaccination
    • EU chief Ursula von der Leyen has warned drugmaker AstraZeneca that the bloc could stop further exports of the vaccine, if the firm doesn't "fulfil its contract with Europe"
    • A UK government adviser says it is "extremely unlikely" that Britons will be taking foreign holidays this summer, with experts citing the "real risk" of overseas travel and variant transmission
    • France and Poland have reintroduced partial lockdowns as both countries battle a sharp rise in Covid infections. A further German lockdown also looks increasingly likely
    • Thousands are taking part in an anti-lockdown protest in central London. The Metropolitan Police said several arrests had been made
  3. Mumbai to spot check for Covid in crowded places

    Video content

    Video caption: India launched what is the world's largest inoculation drive in January

    The city of Mumbai is to roll-out rapid coronavirus tests in crowded places as the country tries to get on top of a rise in infections.

    The city's local government said people would be tested randomly, in an order issued on Saturday.

    A refusal to be tested would "amount to an offence" under an 1897 epidemic law, the order said.

    The move came as India recorded 40,953 new cases on Saturday, the biggest daily jump for nearly four months.

    So far there have been 159,000 deaths related to the disease in India since the pandemic - the fourth-highest number of deaths of any country in the world.

    Infections have been steadily climbing in recent weeks, as the country scrambles to vaccinate its huge population.

    The commissioner of the local authority told India Today that, from 22 March, people should "be ready for the swab test" whenever they enter a busy area in Mumbai.

    Read more.

  4. BT Tower message marks vaccine milestone

    Half of all UK adults have now received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine - and the BT Tower in central London has been lit up to mark the occasion.

    The Department of Health tweeted two photographs of a celebratory message on the LED sign at the top of the 190m-high tower.

    "Every vaccine gives us hope... half of all adults protected," it reads.

    You can read more about the milestone in our story.

    View more on twitter
  5. 'This lockdown is too much'

    By Jon Donnison, at the scene in central London

    A person holds a sign during a protest against the lockdown in central London

    Thousands of tightly packed anti-lockdown protesters marched up Whitehall, some chanting “freedom” to the beat of a drum.

    One man carried a placard bearing the words: “No more NHS and government lies."

    I’ve seen very few demonstrators wearing masks and there’s no attempt at social distancing.

    So far the police, who are here in large numbers, have been taking a mostly hands-off approach and I’ve witnessed only one arrest.

    Amongst the crowd there are undoubtedly some conspiracy theorists - with some accusing mainstream media of pushing fake news .

    But that’s by no means everyone here. One woman told me she knew Covid was bad, “I had it myself last March," she said.

    "But this lockdown is too much," she added.

  6. Small rise in daily UK cases, but trend remains downward

    The UK has recorded 5,587 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, a rise of 785 cases on the previous day, according to government figures.

    Nonetheless the number of cases continues to fall across the UK, based on a rolling seven-day average.

    Data showed a further 96 people have died within 28 days of a positive test - Friday's figure was 101.

    At least 26,853,407 have now received their first vaccinations, with more than two million people - 2,132,551 - having been given both jabs.

  7. Lockdown three hits 21m in France

    Hugh Schofield

    BBC News, Paris

    Pedestrian walks past mural in Paris on first day of the new lockdown

    A third of the French population - about 21 million people - have started their third lockdown after a surge in cases of Covid.

    Paris and its surrounding region plus a large part of northern France and the area around Nice are all affected by the new measure which is set to last at least four weeks.

    It is a lighter lockdown than the two previous ones - the main difference being that during the day people can go outside for exercise for as long as they like.

    Schools also are staying open.

    But leaving the city for the countryside is not allowed, and yesterday there was heavy congestion on the roads and the trains as some Parisians got out while they could to non-lockdown zones.

    Many in France find the bureaucratic approach of the government annoying if predictable.

    While clothes and DIY shops are shut, hairdressers, bookshops, cobblers and florists are open.

  8. Numbers at London protest 'greater than anticipated'

    Tom Symonds

    Home Affairs Correspondent

    Saturday's anti-lockdown protest in central London
    Image caption: The march disrupted traffic on Park Lane, near London's Hyde Park

    The Met Police say numbers attending Saturday's anti-lockdown protest in London are greater than expected.

    Thousands are believed to be taking part in the demonstrations, far more than the 1,000 predicted to attend during planning - although the Metropolitan Police does not give formal estimates of numbers.

    Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor says gathering outside the home is illegal under coronavirus regulations, and no protest of this size could be regarded as safe to go ahead.

    But he stressed the intention is always to balance the right to protest with public health requirements.

    There have been some arrests, but the police are currently standing back and watching how events develop.

    Mass arrests are not possible because it takes at least three officers to make one arrest. Another tactic, containment (or kettling) cannot be deployed, because it would raise the risk of Covid transmission.

  9. Labour calls for 'comprehensive quarantine' policy as cases rise in Europe

    A traveller arrives at Heathrow Airport

    Labour has called the surge in coronavirus infections in parts of Europe "really worrying" and has called for the introduction of a "comprehensive hotel quarantine system without further delay" for people arriving in the UK.

    Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: "The UK's first priority has to be to protect the progress made by the vaccine."

    "Of course we all want international travel to resume, but safety has to come first."

    He said it was "too early" to say how travel advice might change on 17 May, adding: "We have to be led by the science, not arbitrary dates."

  10. Watch: Hundreds gather for anti-lockdown protests

    Video content

    Video caption: Covid restrictions: Hundreds gather for anti-lockdown protests

    Hundreds of people have been marching from Hyde Park to Westminster in London as part of a day of anti-lockdown protests.

    The Home Office said it was still illegal for people to attend demonstrations under the current coronavirus rules.

    The Metropolitan Police said several arrests had been made.

  11. A familiar day in unfamiliar circumstances

    Gareth Griffiths

    BBC Sport Wales

    Wales claimed a 22nd Triple Crown against England in February 2021
    Image caption: Wales claimed a 22nd Triple Crown against England on their way to Paris

    Wales rugby fans are all set for another potential Grand Slam Saturday - but it will be a day unlike any others.

    Scotland host Italy and England travel to Dublin as the Six Nations appetisers before the main course in Paris with only France and unbeaten Wales still able to win the tournament.

    A win would clinch Wales' fifth Grand Slam of the Six Nations era.

    But because of Covid-19 this would be the first without fans at the game or in pubs and rugby clubs across Wales.

    Whether events will be resolved on "Super Saturday" remains to be seen with Scotland still to travel to Paris on 26 March, six days after the anticipated end of the tournament.

    The original game in February was called off because of Covid-19 cases in the France camp which has potentially spoiled the concept of everything being finalised on the last day.

    Read more here.

  12. 'No choice' as Germany contemplates another lockdown

    Demonstrators attend a protest against coronavirus restrictions in Kassel, Germany
    Image caption: On Saturday, there were protests against the government"s coronavirus restrictions in Kassel, Germany

    Dr Guenther Schoenrich, deputy director of the Institute of Virology at the Charite Hospital in Berlin, has told the BBC another lockdown in Germany is inevitable.

    "It looks like that we have no choice because the virus is spreading and, as already pointed out, we have a new variant, the variant that has been first detected in the UK, also now here in German," he said.

    Dr Schoenrich said it was harder to prevent the the British variant from spreading as it is "more transmissible", adding the situation was exacerbated because "at the same time we have not enough people vaccinated so far".

    Partial lockdowns were reintroduced in France and Poland on Saturday, as many European countries face the prospect of a third wave.

    Germany is seeing an exponential rise in cases, with infections on the Czech border more than 15 times the government's target.

  13. When can I go on holiday abroad or in the UK?

    Woman sitting in a deck chair on a beach

    Experts have warned against British people travelling to Europe this summer, because of the risk of bring back new variants - and the slow pace of vaccination in many EU countries.

    So what are the rules around travel at the moment - and when and where can we get away?

    At the moment, the key date to watch - at least in England and Scotland - is 17 May. Both nations have stated that is the earliest possible date for foreign travel although Scotland's first minister warned only last week that it "may well not be possible for a further period after that".

    However, family groups or bubbles can book self-catering holiday accommodation in the UK from 12 April, if the government roadmap goes according to plan.

    So what are your rights if you go ahead and book a holiday this summer?

    The BBC's Eleanor Lawrie shares the lowdown.

  14. Airline trade body urges 'risk-based reopening' for travel

    Plane

    Airlines UK, the trade body for UK-based airlines, said it was "too early" to predict what the Covid situation in Europe, or globally, would look like in 10 weeks' time.

    The trade body said its focus between now and then was working with the government "on a framework for travel that is robust and workable, and can stand the test of time".

    "We have always said any reopening must be risk-based, but also led by the overriding assumption that as the vaccine rollout accelerates both here and abroad, a phased easing of restrictions is achievable.

    "We know that universal, restriction-free travel is unlikely from 17 May but under a tiered system, based on risk, international travel can meaningfully restart and build up, with minimal restrictions, in time."

  15. Passengers' interests 'priority' when travel resumes

    Air passengers

    It is vital that plans to restart international travel from the UK take on board the interests of passengers, the editor of consumer organisation Which? Travel has said.

    Rory Boland said it was important that the rules and requirements remain consistent, "as changing them will leave travellers footing the bill again and further risk undermining consumers' confidence in booking travel".

    He said ministers must make safety, affordable tests, vaccine passports and reassurance about refunds when travel is disrupted a "top priority".

    He was commenting after a warning from health experts that summer holidays overseas are "extremely unlikely" because of the risk of travellers bringing coronavirus variants back to the UK,

    Boland said: "The government has made it clear it will make decisions on reopening travel based on the health situation abroad, meaning travel will continue to be restricted and rules will change in line with scientific guidance...

    "There remains a financial risk to booking travel currently."

  16. Anti-lockdown protesters detained in London

    Anti-lockdown demonstrator detained by police in Hyde Park on 20 March 2021

    Some protesters have been detained by police in Hyde Park in London during an anti-lockdown demonstration.

    Under England's current lockdown regulations, protests are not listed as a "reasonable excuse" for leaving home.

    A small number of protesters opposed to the lockdown gathered ahead of a planned march to Westminster.

    Scotland Yard said London remains in a health crisis and urged people to stay at home.

    The demonstration came after more than 60 MPs and peers wrote to the home secretary calling for a change in Covid-19 legislation to allow protests to happen during lockdown.

    The letter, organised by campaign groups Liberty and Big Brother Watch, says there is a human right to protest.

    Anti-lockdown demonstration in Hyde Park, London, on 20 March 2021
    Anti-lockdown demonstration in Hyde Park, London, on 20 March 2021
    Anti-lockdown demonstration in Hyde Park, London, on 20 March 2021
  17. Care worker struck off after lockdown party attack

    Nerys Williams

    A care worker has been struck off after being jailed for assaulting three police officers who were called to a party during a coronavirus lockdown.

    Nerys Williams, 32, of Carneddi, Bethesda, Gwynedd, admitted three charges of assaulting an emergency worker in June last year.

    Llandudno magistrates jailed her for a year and she was sacked by her employer Cartrefi Cymru.

    Social Care Wales' fitness to practise committee has now struck her off.

  18. Olympic overseas spectator ban: 'A great sacrifice'

    The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, has said banning international fans from the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympics is a "great sacrifice for everybody".

    We reported earlier that the Games - due to start in July - would not be open to foreign spectators.

    Bach said: "We share the disappointment of all enthusiastic Olympic fans from around the world, and of course the families and friends of the athletes, who were planning to come to the Games. For this I am truly sorry.

    "Every decision has to respect the principle of safety first. I know that our Japanese partners and friends did not reach this conclusion lightly.

    "We stand shoulder-to-shoulder at the side of our Japanese partners and friends, without any kind of reservation, to make the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 a great success."

    International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons said "difficult decisions" had to be made with safety the "top priority".

    "It goes without saying that in an ideal world we would prefer to have international spectators at the Games," he said.

    "But at the moment we must acknowledge that due to the global pandemic we are not living in an ideal world."

    Olympic logo
  19. Johnson hails vaccine half-way point

    After Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that half of UK adults had received their first vaccine dose, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tweeted his gratitude to "everyone involved"...

    View more on twitter
  20. Von der Leyen threatens to halt EU exports of AstraZeneca vaccine

    Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission
    Image caption: Earlier this month Italy blocked the export of 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia

    EU chief Ursula von der Leyen has threatened to halt exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine if the bloc does not receive its promised deliveries first.

    "We have the option of banning a planned export. That's the message to AstraZeneca: you fulfil your contract with Europe first before you start delivering to other countries," Ms von der Leyen told Germany's Funke media group.

    The European Commission president said AstraZeneca had delivered only 30% of the 90 million vaccine doses it had promised for the first quarter of the year.

    The EU is struggling to accelerate its vaccination programme, with a third wave of cases bearing down on many parts of the continent.

    Ms von der Leyen said the EU's contract with AstraZeneca states that vaccines destined for the bloc would be produced in both EU and UK plants, "but we haven't received anything from the Brits".

    "I can't explain to European citizens why we are exporting millions of vaccine doses to countries that are producing vaccines themselves and aren't sending us anything back," she said.

    Read more about the row over vaccine exports here.