Scotland and Wales to close all schools due to coronavirus pandemic

Scotland and Wales are closing all of their schools due to the coronavirus pandemic – the first UK nations to do so as the crisis worsens.

Schools remain open in England and Northern Ireland, although Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously suggested closures were 'imminent' and announcements may come later.

An announcement may come later after parents and teachers demanded that they be shut to prevent the virus from spreading, and several were forced to close due to staff shortages.

More than a million people had signed online petitions urging the Prime Minister to finally act and follow the lead of European countries and nations that had far fewer infections.

Wales' Education Minister Kirsty Williams said the Easter break is being brought forward and “schools across Wales will close for statutory provision of education at the latest on Friday, March 20".

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She said plans were being made for schools in Wales to be re-purposed to help people "involved in the immediate response to the coronavirus outbreak".

She said the announcement came on Wednesday to “ensure an orderly closure for schools" so that staff and parents have enough time to prepare and to limit disruption.

Ms Williams added: “From next week, schools will have a new purpose. They will help support those most in need, including people involved in the immediate response to the coronavirus outbreak.

"I am working with my colleagues in the Cabinet, with government officials and our partners in local government to develop and finalise these plans.

“The key areas we are looking at are supporting and safeguarding the vulnerable and ensuring continuity of learning.

"We are looking in detail at how we can support and safeguard all those who benefit from free school meals and children with additional learning needs. I will make sure you are kept up-to-date.

“While this will apply to schools, childcare settings are expected to remain open until we have definitive advice from the Chief Medical Officer and from Public Health Wales that any closures are required.

"Parents can, and should, speak with their usual childcare providers if they need care over the Easter holidays."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced Scotland's schools would close by the end of the week.

She made the announcement as she confirmed Scotland's third coronavirus death.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The most common symptoms of the coronavirus are:

  • a dry, persistent cough
  • a fever

If you experience these symptoms, you should immediately self-isolate yourself for seven days.

It is not necessary to call NHS 111 unless your symptoms get more severe.

Some patients have reported fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath and aches and pains. Sneezing is not a symptom of the coronavirus.

Schools have now lost too many staff to continue as normal, she said.

She said she wanted to reassure teachers and school staff that the government would work with them as they know what is best for children.

She said the Scottish Government is still working out the finer detail of what this will all mean.

Ms Williams said the Welsh Government was looking into how children on free school meals and with additional learning needs can be supported, and said parents should speak with their childcare providers for care over the extended break.

She said: "The key areas we are looking at are supporting and safeguarding the vulnerable and ensuring continuity of learning.

"We are looking in detail at how we can support and safeguard all those who benefit from free school meals and children with additional learning needs. I will make sure you are kept up-to-date.

"While this will apply to schools, childcare settings are expected to remain open until we have definitive advice from the chief medical officer and from Public Health Wales that any closures are required.

"Parents can, and should, speak with their usual childcare providers if they need care over the Easter holidays."

Ms Williams added: "The announcement I am making today will help ensure an orderly closure for schools so that they have the time to prepare.

"However, I am conscious that the SAGE Committee and Cobra meet this afternoon, and I will of course be listening closely to see if advice changes and any further urgent decisions about school closures are needed.

"Today's decision will help ensure an orderly closure, so schools have time to prepare ahead of the early break.

"My main message for everyone is to stay safe and stay well. We will work together and we will face this outbreak together."

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