UK schools will be shut from Friday afternoon “until further notice”, the education secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed.
Schools will remain open for children of key workers and those who are “vulnerable”, he told the Commons today, saying the situation had changed sufficiently that they could no longer remain open.
“The spike of the virus is increasing at a faster pace than anticipated… the public health benefits of schools remaining open as usual is shifting.”
Speaking almost simultaneously during his daily press conference, Boris Johnson confirmed the measures, saying that exceptions would be made for children of key workers including medical, police workers, delivery drivers and social care workers who are “so vital”.
Exams including GCSEs and A Levels will not take place this summer, but the Prime Minister said “we will make sure pupils get the qualifications they need and deserve for their future career”
The government is also advising nurseries and private schools close.
Asked how long the school closures would last, Johnson said: “We are going to try to keep it to absolute minimum… I wish I could give you an answer about how long… but we have to do it right now.”
He noted that work was ongoing to ensure “we support not just businesses but individuals and their families” affected by the move.
Parents were reminded not to leave their children with grandparents, with the Prime Minister saying “I know that is going to be difficult too”.
But the chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance stressed the measures were not being brought in because of any undue risk to children, stressing that when they do catch covid-19 it tends to be a “milder” form.
Instead the measures are about protecting those who might get “the much more serious version”, he noted.
Asked about government plans to impose widespread restrictions on London, Johnson said: “We will not hesitate to bring further and faster measures where we think that is necessary.”