- Covid deaths in UK are down by a quarter, according to the Office for National Statistics
- There were 4,447 Covid deaths registered in the UK in the week of 19 February - down on the previous week (6,113)
- Health officials are still trying to trace one person infected with a concerning coronavirus variant first found in Brazil
- The UK is preparing to hand out £408m to help museums, theatres and galleries in England reopen as restrictions ease
- Parts of the UK reliant on tourism have been most affected by the Covid jobs crisis, analysis by the BBC suggests
- The devolved government in Northern Ireland is due to publish its plan to exit lockdown
- France will now give people between 65 and 74 the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, in a change to policy
- A top official fears a "potential fourth surge of cases" in the US as highly contagious variants spread
Good morning and welcome to today's live coverage. We'll be bringing you updates on the pandemic throughout the day.
Here's a summary of the main headlines this morning:
- Concerns remain around the worrying Brazil variant, but the government has defended its border arrangements, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying home quarantine measures were already in place.
- UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak is preparing to hand out £408m to help museums, theatres and galleries in England reopen once Covid restrictions start to ease. In Wednesday's Budget, he will also announce a £150m fund to help communities take over local pubs.
- The devolved government in Northern Ireland is due to publish its plan to exit lockdown . It is understood it won't have specific target dates like England, but will set out critieria to open up nine different areas of business and society.
- France has changed its policy on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and says it will now be given to people between 65 and 74. Health officials had previously restricted the jab to younger age groups - because of what they claimed was a lack of trial data.
- The spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants is threatening to fuel a "potential fourth surge of cases" in the US, a top health official has warned
Here are the key developments from the last few hours:
- China said it aims to vaccinate 40% of population by June. Health experts in China say their country is lagging in its coronavirus vaccination rollout because it has the disease largely under control, but plans to inoculate 40% of its population by June.
- France, Germany are struggling to sell AstraZeneca vaccine safety. Already facing a daunting Covid vaccination challenge, French and German authorities are fighting to convince more people that a jab from the pharma giant AstraZeneca is just as effective as others.
- World won’t be done with Covid-19 this year , the WHO warned. It is unrealistic to think the world will be done with the Covid-19 pandemic by the end of the year, the World Health Organization warned on Monday.
- Donald and Melania Trump received the coronavirus vaccine before leaving the White House , according to multiple news reports on Monday. Citing unnamed advisers, the New York Times, CNN and other outlets reported that while other officials, including Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and the former vice-president Mike Pence, chose to get their shots publicly to encourage confidence in the vaccines, the Trumps opted to quietly get vaccinated in January. There was no detail on which shot they received or how many doses they had been given.
- Fauci said the US must stick with two-dose strategy for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The United States must stick to a two-dose strategy for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid vaccines, top US infectious disease official Anthony Fauci told the Washington Post newspaper. Fauci said that delaying a second dose to inoculate more Americans creates risks.
- Mexico’s coronavirus chief came home from hospital. Mexico’s coronavirus czar is back home after being hospitalized for Covid last Wednesday, but will still be monitored and receive treatment, a health official said on Monday, as the country’s coronavirus death toll passed 186,000.
- New infections rose last week for first time in seven weeks. More from the World Health Organization: The WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said new case numbers rose last week in Europe, the Americas, southeast Asia and the eastern Mediterranean. The number of new coronavirus infections globally rose last week for the first time in seven weeks.
- Philippines confirmed its first cases of South African variant. The Philippines has documented six cases of the South African coronavirus variant, its health ministry said on Tuesday, raising concern among its experts that the current vaccines might be less effective.
- The US downplayed the possibility of sharing Covid vaccines with Mexico. The Biden administration on Monday downplayed the prospect of sharing coronavirus vaccines with Mexico, saying it is focused first on getting its own population protected against a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans.
- Stop doing anal Covid tests on our citizens, Japan told China . Tokyo has requested Beijing to stop taking anal swab tests for Covid-19 on Japanese citizens because the procedure causes psychological pain, a government spokesperson has said.
- Data on long Covid in UK children is cause for concern . Scientists have warned that emerging data on long Covid in children should not be ignored given the lack of a vaccine for this age group, but cautioned that the evidence describing these enduring symptoms in the young is so far uncertain.
- Fossil fuel emissions in danger of surpassing pre-Covid levels . The world has only a few months to prevent the energy industry’s carbon emissions from surpassing pre-pandemic levels this year as economies begin to rebound from Covid-19 restrictions, according to the International Energy Agency.
Hunt goes on for Brazil variant caseThe hunt goes on to find out where the Brazil variant has spread in the UK with fears that it could be more infectious than the dominant one here.
Scientists are able to identify different mutations of the virus by gathering samples from all over the country and bringing them to the Sanger Institute for identification, which has the largest genome sequencing operation in the world.
Dr Jeff Barrett. director of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative there, spoke to the Today programme a little earlier.
He said they were analysing over 20,000 sequences per week, which equates to about 20% of all infections in the UK.
His team tried to spot new variants as quickly as possibly, he said, and when they did see examples of P1 (Brazil variant) that information can be used to try to keep the number of onward transmissions as low as possible.
How worried should we be about Brazil variant?Asked how concerned we should be about the P1 (Brazil) variant, Dr Barrett from the Sanger Institute for Identification said there were two aspects of new variants they look at - are they more transmissible and might they be less well neutralised from immunity from vaccines or previous infection?
In the case of P1, he told the BBC's Today programme he did not think there was very strong evidence that it's more transmissible than the current widely circulating variants in the UK, like the Kent variant.
"I think there is some laboratory-based evidence that it is partially less neutralised by vaccines. I don't think we know how much of a difference that will make in the real world.
"We certainly don't think it will be completely able to escape vaccination," he added.