Live updates on Covid-19 in Scotland, the UK, and around the world.
Follow along here to stay up-to-date with the latest developments on Tuesday, March 23.
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Last updated: Tuesday, 23 March, 2021, 06:30
- National day of reflection to be held on anniversary of lockdown
- 359 new positive Covid-19 cases on Monday
- No further coronavirus deaths reported in Scotland
More than £3m paid to support young disabled people in work during pandemic
More than £3 million has been given to help around 2,000 young disabled people in Scotland maintain employment during the pandemic.
The Transition Fund, administered by Independent Living Fund (ILF) Scotland, is for those aged between 16 and 25 and aims to help young people develop their independence, confidence and participation within their communities.
A record 1,822 applications were received since March 1 2020 – peaking during the outbreak.
Joe Eaglesham, from Evanton in the Highlands, has ADHD and dyslexia.
He was living in Glasgow before losing his job at the start of the pandemic.
On moving home, a family friend told him about the ILF Scotland Transition Fund and suggested he apply for funding support to help him pursue his dream of becoming a tree surgeon.
He used ILF funding to undertake training and get his qualifications in 2020 and he has just moved to Edinburgh for work.
The 23-year-old said: “For the first time in my life, I don’t feel a sense of dread and wake up excited to go to work.
“I’m so happy to now have a legitimate career after many difficult years at school where I felt held back due to my ADHD and dyslexia.
“I wish I’d heard about ILF Scotland back then.”
PM says restrictions are easing ‘once and for all’ a year on from first lockdown
Boris Johnson has said coronavirus restrictions are being eased “once and for all” as the UK marks the anniversary of the first national lockdown.
The Prime Minister offered his “sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones” and praised the “great spirit” displayed ahead of the nation pausing in remembrance on Tuesday.
With the official death toll passing 126,172 deaths, Mr Johnson warned a third wave of Covid-19 cases being seen in France and Italy could “wash up on our shores as well”.
He will face lockdown-sceptics on the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs in an attempt to quell unease over his plan to ease restrictions ahead of a Commons vote later this week.
But they are likely to be further angered by proposals to legally require care home workers to be vaccinated, and for foreign holidays to continue being outlawed until at least June 30.
Ahead of a minute’s silence at midday, Mr Johnson praised those who developed and rolled out vaccines, parents who homeschooled their children and the public who endured social distancing.
“It’s because of every person in this country that lives have been saved, our NHS was protected, and we have started on our cautious road to easing restrictions once and for all,” he said in a statement.
But on Monday, he highlighted the precariousness of the situation, warning of a fresh wave of infections in Europe, adding “experience has taught us that when a wave hits our friends, it washes up on our shores as well”.
Grieving Covid families criticise PM after meeting with Nicola Sturgeon
Relatives of people who died with coronavirus have criticised Boris Johnson for “refusing” to meet them after Nicola Sturgeon promised them a role in a public inquiry.
The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign met with the First Minister of Scotland on Monday.
They said she told them the Scottish Government would push for a four-nations approach to a statutory inquiry into the pandemic, but would proceed alone if this is not possible.
The campaigners said they were told families would be involved in setting the terms of the inquiry and praised Ms Sturgeon for showing empathy.
But they criticised Mr Johnson, saying they had written to his government six times seeking a meeting but had been refused.
Alan Wightman, who lost his mother Helen, 88, to the virus in May last year, said he was grateful the First Minister had agreed to meet and that the commitment to an inquiry “means a great deal to the thousands of us who have lost loved ones over the past year”.
He added: “If any good is to come out of this period, it’s that lessons are learned so that we can save lives in future.”
Common cold protection against coronavirus ‘might have population-wide effect’
The immune response from the common cold virus which offers some level of protection against coronavirus “might have a population-wide effect”, according to a new study.
Research from scientists in Glasgow, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), indicated the human rhinovirus triggers an innate response which seemingly blocks SARS-CoV-2 replication in cells of the respiratory tract.
But, as part of further studies, they ran mathematical simulations which suggest such interaction and an increasing prevalence of rhinovirus could reduce the number of new Covid-19 cases.
Human rhinoviruses cause the common cold and are the most widespread respiratory viruses found in people.
Professor Pablo Murcia, from the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, said: “Our research shows that human rhinovirus triggers an innate immune response in human respiratory epithelial cells which blocks the replication of the Covid-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2.
“This means that the immune response caused by mild, common cold virus infections, could provide some level of transient protection against SARS-CoV-2, potentially blocking transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and reducing the severity of Covid-19.
“The next stage will be to study what is happening at the molecular level during these virus-virus interactions, to understand more about their impact on disease transmission.
“We can then use this knowledge to our advantage, hopefully developing strategies and control measures for Covid-19 infections.
“In the meantime, vaccination is our best method of protection against Covid-19.”
Coronavirus surveillance and sequencing ‘must continue for foreseeable future’
Surveillance and genomic sequencing of coronavirus is “going to have to continue for some foreseeable future”, according to experts at a virus research centre in Glasgow.
Last year, the Medical Research Council (MRC)-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR) began focusing some resources into studying SARS-CoV-2 – but every resource was moved to studying the virus once lockdown was implemented.
Now, a year after that first lockdown was introduced, MRC investigator and head of CVR bioinformatics Professor David Robertson has emphasised the importance of continuing surveillance of Covid-19 which has been evolving with a number of variants in the last few months.
He told the PA news agency the extent of change in the virus in a short space of time “took us by surprise”, but has also “shown us the extent of the way the virus can change in the future”.
Prof Robertson said: “The virus for the first 11 months was evolving quite slowly and steadily… at the end of last year there was a real acceleration in the extent of the difference of the variants relative to the first ones to emerge in early 2020.
“We think that’s got a lot to do with the immune profile of the human population changing… now the priority is continuing the monitoring.
“What’s happening now is more people are vaccinated, that’s changed the host environment yet again and the risk then is if you still then have uncontrolled infections in the context of relatively high rates of protection then the virus will evolve to counteract the host immune response.
“It’s really an incredible thing that so many vaccines have been prepared in such a short time and the virus is pushing back against that – that’s kind of how evolution works – so, really, the monitoring, the surveillance, the sequencing, is just going to have to continue for some foreseeable future.
“I guess the biggest change is the intensity of the work has obviously been very timely – in normal circumstances when you’re doing research the data is accumulating and you’re analysing it and it’s not so urgent.
“But clearly with an outbreak like this, and with the UK situation, monitoring the spread of the virus, helping the public health authorities analyse sort of outbreaks and locations… there’s just an urgency that wasn’t there before.”
National day of reflection to be held on anniversary of lockdown
A minute’s silence is to be held at noon one year on from the coronavirus lockdown to remember those who died during the pandemic.
Prominent buildings and landmarks throughout the UK will be illuminated as part of the national day of reflection, including the Kelpies, Wallace Monument and Ness Bridge.
People are being encouraged to stand on their doorsteps with phones, candles and torches to signify a “beacon of remembrance”.
End of life charity Marie Curie is organising the event, which is being backed by more than 100 organisations, including the emergency services, businesses, charities and community groups.
The Scottish Government is among those supporting the event and is inviting people to take part and to reach out to someone they know is grieving.
Ken Macintosh, the Scottish Parliament’s presiding officer, will lead the minute’s silence on the garden lobby steps at Holyrood at 12 noon along with party leaders.