ALL schools will be closed from Friday afternoon to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the drastic announcement in his daily briefing this afternoon.

He also said that exams in May and June would "not take place as planned".

The Conservative party leader said: "We will continue, as we have from the beginning, to do the right thing at the right time and to follow the best scientific advice.


"We come today to the key issue of schools where we have been consistently advised that there is an important trade off, and so far the judgement of our advisers  has been that closing schools is actually of limited value in slowing the spread of the epidemic.

"That's partly because, counter-intuitively, schools are actually very safe environments and in this epidemic children and young people are much less vulnerable.

"And here, too, the advice has been that we should keep schools open if possible in order to reduce the pressure on the NHS and on all other public services,

"But I think you'll agree that this is a balanced judgement and one that we've kept under constant review.

"So, looking at the curve of the disease and where we are now, we think now that we must apply 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 most pupils until further notice."

He said the objective was to slow the spread of the virus and added that "this is the right moment to do that".

But he explained that the country needed healthworkers who were also parents to continue to go to work, saying that this was also the case for others in "keyworker" professions such as police and social care.

He said: "We therefore need schools to make provisions for the children of these keyworkers otherwise they will be forced to stay home.

"They will also need to look after the most vulnerable children.

"This will mean there will be far fewer children in the schools and that will help us to slow the spread of the disease.

"These measures are crucial to make sure that the critical parts of the economy and public services keep functioning.

"We are simultaneously asking nurseries and private schools to do the same and we are providing financial support where it is needed.

"We are making provisions to supply meals and vouchers for children eligible for free school meals and, where some schools are already doing this, I want to make it clear that we will reimburse the cost.

"Of course this does mean that exams will not take place as planned in May and June.

"Though we will make sure that pupils do get the qualifications they need and deserve for their academic career."

The Prime Minister also promised to scale-up the existing testing capacity to 25,000-a-day, saying retired healthcare professionals were being asked to help the NHS.

He concluded: "We will take the right steps at the right time, guided by the science.

"We believe the steps we have already taken, together with those I'm announcing today, are already slowing the spread of the disease.

"But we will not hesitate to go further and faster in the days and weeks ahead.

"And we will do whatever it takes so that we beat it together."