Why UK schools are not closing over coronavirus as third Sheffield Covid-19 case confirmed

Closing schools as part of efforts to tackle the spread of coronavirus could make matters worse, Boris Johnson has warned.

Friday, 13th March 2020, 10:59 am
Updated Friday, 13th March 2020, 11:00 am

The Prime Minister confirmed schools in the UK will not be closed but said the situation could change as the disease continues to spread.

Mr Johnson said the Government is following the advice of scientists.

"We are not, repeat not, closing schools now," he said.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at a news conference inside 10 Downing Street, London, after the latest COBRA meeting to discuss the government's response to coronavirus crisis. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 12, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Simon Dawson/PA Wire

"The scientific advice is that this could do more harm than good at this time but of course we are keeping this under review and this again may change as the disease spreads."

Mr Johnson did however add that school trips abroad should be stopped.

There are concerns that school closures could mean parents would have to stay at home to look after children, raising challenges in terms of time off work and pay.

Other concerns include some parents who work in the NHS being absent from the healthcare service at a time of great need, and the potential exposure of grandparents to the disease if they are drafted in to look after sick children.

The decision not to close schools in Great Britain and Northern Ireland comes on the same day as the Republic of Ireland announced that schools and colleges there will close for a fortnight from Thursday evening, as part of their measures to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak.

Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill defended the decision not to close schools in Northern Ireland, despite the fact the rest of the island's schools will shut.

Mrs Foster said the difference between the jurisdictions was that there had been community transfer of the virus in the Republic but this has not yet happened in Northern Ireland.

Ms O'Neill acknowledged the situation was "confusing" but said: "We don't believe at this minute in time that that is the right step to take (to close schools)."

She added that "inevitably" the situation might progress to one where closing schools will have to be considered.

A petition for schools to be closed in the UK is gaining traction, and currently has more than 430,000 signatures.