Britain's Education Secretary has announced that schools will be closed in the country from Friday until further notice.
Gavin Williamson announced that "after the gates of the schools are shut on Friday it will remain closed until further notice." The announcement in the House of Commons included information about the exams and assessments that should have been conducted during this academic year.
He said nurseries, sixth forms, further education colleges, and independent schools were expected to follow the new rule. Williamson told MPs that he wants "to provide parents, students, and staff with the certainty they need."
Previously, it was announced that Scotland and Wales would be closing schools and colleges because of Covid-19.
Death toll 104
Williamson said schools will close for everyone except for "looking after the children of keyworkers and vulnerable children."
The announcement came after the NHS announced the death of 32 more people bringing the toll to 104. As of Wednesday, there were 2,626 cases, an increase from 1,950 on Tuesday. Around 56,221 tests have been carried out in the UK for Covid-19, and 53,595 people tested negative for the virus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at his daily news conference: "We think now that we must apply further downward pressure with that upward curve by closing the schools."
Schools in Northern Ireland are set to close today, March 18, for students and on Monday, March 23, they will close for the staff.
Johnson thanked teachers and headteachers for their crucial work during the pandemic. He said that by looking after the children of the NHS staff and other key workers, the staff is being a critical part of the fightback against Covid-19.
Johnson added that children should not be left with the elderly like their grandparents as the disease can easily be transmitted to people above a certain age.
Schools have been preparing for such a move for some time. They have set up online practices and homework packages for students. Several people have raised concerns about frontline workers in the coronavirus fight and the ability to work if the schools shut down. The government was also reluctant to make such a decision initially.
In the UK, more than 60,000 people have signed a petition for the closure of schools and colleges.