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Boris Johnson confirms all schools in the UK will close 'until further notice' as coronavirus crisis deepens

Boris Johnson delivered the news at a Downing Street press conference.

3 min read

Every school in the UK are to close "until further notice" as the Government steps up its attempts to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Boris Johnson confirmed the move - which brings the UK into line with the rest of Europe - as it emerged that the number of people in the country killed by the illness has risen to 104.

Universities, colleges and nurseries are also being urged to follow suit.

The Prime Minister said that after schools in England "close their gates" on Friday, they will not re-open again until the outbreak is under control.

However, exceptions will be made for the children of key workers, such as those in the NHS and the emergency services, and the most vulnerable youngsters, including those relying on free school meals.

All A-level and GCSE exams have also been cancelled, meaning pupils will have to rely on predicted grades for the end-of-year results.

The devolved governments in Scotland and Wales had already announced that all of their schools will close at the end of the week, while those in Northern Ireland are shutting with immediate effect.

Mr Johnson said: "Looking at the curve of the disease, and where we are now, we think now that we must apply downward pressure, further downward pressure on that upward curve, by closing the schools.

"So, I can announce today...that after schools shut their gates from Friday afternoon, they will remain closed...for the vast majority of pupils until further notice.

"The objective is to slow the spread of the virus, and we judge this is the right moment to do that.

"But of course, as I've said, we also need to keep the NHS going, and to treat the rising number of cases. So we need health workers who are also parents to continue to go to work and we need other critical workers with children to keep doing their jobs too.

"From police officers who are keeping us safe, to the supermarket delivery drivers, social care workers who look after the elderly."

However, the Prime Minister urged people not to send their children to be looked after by their grandparents, as the elderly are among the group most at risk from the virus.

As the Prime Minister addressed a Downing Street press conference, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told the Commons that "the spike of the virus is increasing at a faster pace than anticipated and it is crucial that we continue to consider the right measures to arrest this increase and relieve the pressure on the health system".

He added: "The public health benefits of schools remaining open as normal are shifting. It is also clear that schools are increasingly finding it more difficult to continue as normal as illness and self isolation impacts on staffing levels and pupil attendance."

Labour leadership contender Keir Starmer called ministers to help parents who will struggle to find childcare as a result of the school closures.

He said: "The Government must step in and support families who now face a choice between losing income because there is no childcare available or paying crippling childcare costs.

“The Government must put a clear plan in place to ensure our children can continue to learn whilst away from school, stay safe and keep mentally and physically healthy.

"Those who are having important exams cancelled need to know it will not deny them opportunities in the future.

"The loss of free school meals risks millions of children going hungry, and for some this means missing their only hot meal of the day. Schools are pillars of our communities and may need to be reimagined during this period, so that those with additional needs get the support they need."

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