Coronavirus: Schools in Scotland and Wales to close from Friday

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Prime Minister’s Questions took place in a half-empty House of Commons

Schools in Scotland and Wales are to close from Friday in response to the coronavirus epidemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs further decisions on school closures in England were “to be taken imminently”.

Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says schools have now lost too many staff to continue as normal.

Meanwhile, the government is bringing forward emergency legislation to protect private renters from eviction after being urged to do more for them.

On Tuesday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced £350bn of help for companies and mortgage “holidays” for home owners.

In the UK, 71 people with coronavirus have died

In other developments:

  • UK supermarkets bring in strict limits on purchases
  • European Union countries have begun turning away travellers from outside the bloc
  • Share prices fell in Europe and Asia as stimulus packages failed to reassure markets
  • The World Health Organization said South East Asian countries must “act now” to tackle the virus
  • There are more than 200,000 cases worldwide and more than 8,000 people have died
  • The BBC put filming of EastEnders on hold and Glastonbury Festival was postponed
  • Prof Neil Ferguson, who has been advising the UK government on its response to the outbreak and was in Downing Street earlier this week, tweeted that he was self-isolating after developing coronavirus symptoms

The move on schools in Scotland and Wales will be welcomed by headteachers who have been struggling to keep their doors open, with growing numbers of staff and pupils off school.

But there are concerns how closures will impact pupils from poorer homes.

Prime Minister’s Questions took place in a half-empty House of Commons, after Labour and the Conservatives told MPs not scheduled to raise a query with Boris Johnson to stay away.

Paying tribute to teachers’ efforts, Mr Johnson told MPs he wanted to do more to “remove burdens on schools” and said further decisions would be taken imminently on schools and how to “square the circle – making sure we stop spread of the disease but relieve pressure on the NHS”.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to make a statement on the situation in England at 17:00 GMT.

Wales education minister Kirsty Williams said she was bringing forward the Easter break and all schools in Wales would close by Friday at the latest.

Childcare centres are expected to remain open until advice is given to close them, Ms Williams added.

Northern Ireland’s education minister Peter Weir said he could not give a date for school closures but any shutdown could potentially last until the start of the autumn term.

BBC News

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