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Live Reporting

Edited by Emma Owen

All times stated are UK

  1. Thanks for joining us

    We're pausing our live coverage of coronavirus developments for the day. Thanks for following the page.

    Your writers were Dulcie Lee, Alex Therrien, Jo Couzens, Chris Giles and Nathan Williams.

    The page was edited by Emma Owen and James Clarke.

    From all of us, have a good evening.

  2. What's happened today?

    An elderly woman sits with a man

    We're coming to the end of our live coverage of the key Covid stories, including the waiting game on the Sue Gray report into lockdown parties. Here's a recap of today's developments:

    Easing rules in care homes: There will be fewer restrictions in adult care settings in England from Monday, including no limits on visitor numbers. The health secretary says this is thanks to the vaccine programme and falling Omicron rates.

    Beginning of the end for masks? It's no longer a legal requirement to wear face coverings in indoor places in England. But some shops such as Tesco, Sainsbury's and John Lewis will still be asking customers to do so. That's also the case on trains, as well as London transport generally.

    Not a Gray day: We're yet to see that long-awaited report by Sue Gray into lockdown parties. The PM, while out and about in Wales, told reporters he's "absolutely not" delaying it, and said it would be published in full. Here, our correspondent Iain Watson looks at some of the things that might be holding it up while our political editor Laura Kuenssberg says Boris Johnson is coming out fighting.

  3. Analysis

    The wait for Sue Gray day... and why the PM is coming out fighting

    Laura Kuenssberg

    Political editor

    Boris Johnson

    There's a police investigation, and an official inquiry into rule breaking under Boris Johnson's roof is coming any day.

    Monday seems most likely now, since you ask, although you'd be forgiven for giving up trying to set your watch by it.

    The report is likely to be grisly, acutely embarrassing for No 10 and for the civil service, with the expectation that the subsequent Met investigation will lead to a fair number of people who worked in No 10 receiving fixed penalty notices for flouting the regulations they designed and set themselves.

    The Conservatives have slipped in the polls, many dozens of Tory MPs are deeply fed up and there has been, for weeks, open discussion of whether or not it might be time for the party to move him on.

    Why then, as another bumpy week draws to a close, are Boris Johnson's closest supporters not at their wits' end?

    Find out more by reading Laura's blog here.

  4. Care home rule changes strike right balance - Javid

    Sajid Javid

    Health Secretary Sajid Javid says it is thanks to a "world-beating vaccination programme" that England can return to Plan A.

    He says: "We're able to do that as a country because of the phenomenal success of our booster programme - we're the most boosted in Europe."

    With Omicron "in retreat", he says a "new chapter" can begin, finding the best ways of learning to live with Covid, he urges.

    Javid says it has been "incredibly challenging" for care homes throughout the pandemic and the changes announced today strike the "right balance" between allowing residents to see their loved ones and keeping them safe.

    "One care home may have a lot of positive cases, another home may have none, so there is a lot of discretion given to managers of care homes," he adds.

    He urges all care homes to do everything they can to allow as many visitors as they can.

  5. Olympic athletes can remove masks on podium, Chinese media say

    Kerry Allen

    BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst

    Two women bundled up in winter coats walk past a temple and Olympics display in Beijing

    The question of masks is on the agenda in China too, where the Beijing Winter Olympics get going next week.

    China’s media are reporting that athletes will be allowed to remove their masks during award ceremonies.

    The country’s leading paper, People’s Daily, says athletes will be given a signal on when to remove their masks before entering podiums, and they will be prompted to put them back on when they hear their national anthem.

    Permission will be granted for athletes to remove masks during commemorative photo shoots, provided they socially distance.

    Over the past couple of weeks, Beijing has grappled with an outbreak of Covid. There have been 80 local cases of the virus since 15 January.

    However, athletes and Olympic personnel have been quarantined on arrival in the country and are being regularly tested. They're part of a "closed loop management system" that prevents them from having any contact with the wider Beijing community.

  6. To mask or not to mask?

    We've been out in Bury St Edmunds to find out what shoppers and retailers think about the move away from mandatory mask wearing in England.

    This is what they had to say.

    Giles Henderson

    Despite the relaxation in the law, fish and chip shop owner Giles Henderson says he’s concerned.

    "The virus hasn't gone anywhere," he says.

    "I don't have many staff. If one of them is sick then it can be the difference between me opening and closing."

    Sheri Frearson

    Sheri Frearson, 33, says she's keen to keep using her mask for now.

    "I just think for my own safety and comfort I'd rather wear it, and if other people do, that's great as well."

    Sarah Jane Clarke

    Sarah Jane Clarke, commercial director of a women's clothing shop in the market town, says she’s happy to let her customers make the choice.

    “We've got to move forward, haven't we? We've got to try and get things back to normal," she says.

    Jacky and Richard Holland

    But Richard and Jacky Holland, both aged 75, think the government has missed a trick.

    "I think they should have kept masks in place because it protects everybody," she says.

    Her husband Richard agrees. "I will wear a mask in public and in crowded places. I think it's the sensible thing to do".

  7. Theatre boss taking cautious approach to face mask easing

    Emma Sullivan

    More now on the relaxation of Plan B requirements in England and the government's decision to drop legal measures for wearing face masks.

    Emma Sullivan, director at the Milton Keynes theatre, says she’s “delighted” to be able to take steps towards making the theatre experience “a normal one” for its patrons once again.

    But she says the venue will be taking a “cautious approach” to easing Covid measures, adding face coverings are “advised” but no longer a requirement.

  8. Fraud and computer crimes rose in lockdowns - ONS

    A woman on the phone

    Rises in fraud and computer misuse pushed up crime by 14% in England and Wales in the year to September 2021, new figures have shown, despite a drop in other offences during lockdowns.

    There was a 47% rise in computer misuse and 24% increase in fraud compared with the same period in 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics.

    And police recorded the highest number of rapes and sexual offences in a 12-month period in England and Wales.

    But many types of crime, including gun and knife crime, fell during lockdowns.

    Read more

  9. Man jailed over attack on Prof Chris Whitty

    Jonathan Chew leaving Westminster Magistrates' Court

    A man has been jailed for eight weeks over an attack on Prof Sir Chris Whitty - the UK government's chief medical adviser - in a central London park last year.

    Jonathan Chew has today admitted intending to cause harassment, alarm or distress to Prof Whitty when he approached him last summer.

    Chew, along with Lewis Hughes - who previously admitted assault by beating and was sentenced to an eight-week suspended jail sentence and a £100 fine - accosted Prof Whitty in St James's Park, London, in June 2021.

    Footage of the incident, filmed by Chew, was widely shared on social media and showed the pair jeering as Prof Whitty attempted to break free.

    You can read more detail on this case here.

  10. The unvaccinated NHS workers facing the sack

    Matt Taylor

    While we're on the subject of boosters, today marks a week from the deadline for all NHS England staff to have their first Covid vaccination or face being moved out of patient facing roles or sacked.

    Matt Taylor is a specialist paramedic who has worked through the pandemic treating elderly and vulnerable people in their homes. He hasn't had a Covid-19 vaccination and says he's prepared to lose his job over it.

    The 42-year-old from Cumbria says: "The government says as healthcare workers we should want to protect our patients by getting vaccinated.

    "But you can argue that it won't protect them any more whether I have it or not. We all know people who are triple jabbed and they've still got Covid or they've not been jabbed and they haven't got it."

    The UK Health Security Agency says vaccines significantly reduce the risk of getting seriously ill or dying from Covid-19, and help cut the risk of catching or spreading the virus.

    Other unvaccinated NHS workers have shared their stories here.

  11. How many in UK have had their booster jabs now?

    The latest figures show deaths have decreased by 1.1% from the previous week (14 to 20 January), with 1,839 recorded in the past seven days, a decrease of 21.

    Cases have dropped by 2.2% from the previous week, with 636,303 recorded between 21 and 27 January, a decrease of 14,397.

    Another 54,464 people in the UK have their booster or third dose of a coronavirus vaccine, the government figures show. In total, 64.5% of the population over the age of 12 has now had three jabs.

  12. BreakingNearly 97,000 new coronavirus cases in UK

    A further 96,871 coronavirus cases have been reported in the UK, according to the government's daily figures.

    There have also been another 338 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

  13. Why has Sue Gray's report not yet appeared?

    Iain Watson

    Political correspondent

    The door of No 10

    I am told by Whitehall sources that Sue Gray is determined the report she submits to Downing Street will be in a form that can allow for it to be published by No 10 in full.

    What she wants to avoid are last minute redactions, or a report that focuses on the least egregious events, while leaving everything that's contentious to the police.

    Sue Gray has built a formidable reputation within the civil service and will not want to be undermined by allegations of a whitewash, or a less than thorough job.

    So it is perfectly possible that minor redrafting or reworking could be undertaken which achieves the twin aims of ensuring the police would have no last minute objections, while not skirting round some of the findings about more controversial gatherings in government buildings.

    According to sources close to the Gray team, there has not been any political interference to adjust the content, so that is not the cause of delay.

    But what could the report say? And what won't it say? Find out here.

  14. Civil servants heading back to the office, No 10 says

    A woman walking in central London

    Work from home guidance for England was lifted last week and it seems civil servants are among those going back into the office.

    The PM's spokesman says there should be a return to "full occupancy of Whitehall offices", while acknowledging flexible working was a thing even before the pandemic.

    "We recognise that taxpayers are funding these offices and it's right that they are used fully as before the pandemic," he points out.

    Of course, not all civil servants have been able to work at home because some "have been part of that frontline response" to the pandemic.

  15. Will you still wear a face mask now the law has changed?

    We've been asking people in St Albans if they plan to continue to wear face masks, now legal measures requiring them to be worn in England have been dropped.

    Here's what a few people had to say.

    Video content

    Video caption: "With the numbers of cases, I would still rather protect myself and everyone else."
  16. Too soon to ease face mask rules, says professor

    Professor Peter Openshaw

    Back to the issue of face masks now, and Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, says he thinks the ending of face mask rules in England has happened a little bit early.

    He says the evidence shows face masks are very effective and he will continue wearing them in indoor environments where "you're breathing other people’s air".

    Although rates of infection are coming down in some parts of the country, Openshaw says there are signs its decline is slowing, adding he's worried government messaging “is now hinting that maybe we don’t need to be quite so careful”.

    He says the frequency of infection is so enormous - particularly now in school children and people with children - that his preference would be to keep measures in place for a bit longer.

  17. 'Essential care giver role welcome but too late'

    Trish Lock, whose mum has dementia and lives in a care home in Taunton, welcomes the essential care giver role but says it "came too late".

    As we have been reporting, from Monday, there will be no limit on visitors allowed at care homes and essential care givers will be able to keep visiting during a Covid outbreak.

    Trish tells the BBC: “The restrictions may have eased but the impact this has had - on people with dementia especially - is that these vulnerable people have lost contact with their loved ones.

    “You can’t just get that back and that is the heartbreak of it all.

    “They always ask 'where is my family?' and I don’t think that has been taken into consideration.

    “Time is not on the side of the people in care homes.

    “The essential carer role in my opinion came too late."

  18. Daughter can't wait for 'proper' visit to mum in care home

    Video content

    Video caption: Covid: 'I cannot wait to visit mum properly'

    Lorren Rea, from Enfield, says she "cannot wait until next week" when she can visit her mum "properly" in her care home.

    She has only been able to visit 83-year-old Kay Price once every two weeks for 30 minutes, communicating through a glass partition via an intercom system.

    She tells the BBC: "At my mum’s care home we were limited to two named visitors, that was me and my brother.

    "We were the only ones allowed to go unless we made a special arrangement for one of her grand daughters to visit - but then we would have to sacrifice our visit."

    Lorren Rea's mum Kay Price
    Image caption: Lorren shared a video of her mum, who suffers from dementia and is losing her hearing, enjoying a singalong during one of their visits

    Lorren says she is not worried for her mum once visitor restrictions are lifted on Monday.

    "She nearly died from Covid," she explains. "I had a call nearly two years ago when she was apparently taking her last breaths – she pulled through that.

    "Now she’s been vaccinated and she actually tested positive three weeks ago and had absolutely no symptoms.

    "I think she’s a tough old bird and she’ll be absolutely fine."

  19. Care home changes are backed by scientists - minister

    A man receives a Covid-19 vaccine

    Care minister Gillian Keegan echoes the health secretary's remarks on the changes to care home rules in England, crediting the country's vaccination programme.

    She says she is delighted restrictions can be eased in care settings "thanks to the continued success of the vaccine rollout".

    Unlimited visits will ensure people living in care homes see all their family and friends, she adds.

    "The changes announced today are backed by scientists, ensuring we all have more freedoms from coronavirus, including care home residents and their families."

  20. Care home rule change is due to vaccine success - Javid

    Sajid Javid

    Health Secretary Sajid Javid says the new rules for care homes are down to the success of the Covid-19 vaccine programme and falling rates of the Omicron variant.

    Some 86.5% of care home residents have now had a booster vaccine.

    Javid says: "I know how vital companionship is to those living in care homes and the positive difference visits make."

    He adds that is why the government continued to allow three named visitors and an essential care giver under Plan B measures.

    "Thanks to the progress we have made, I am delighted that care home restrictions can now be eased further, allowing residents to see more of their loved ones."