A London council has asked all schools in its area to close from Monday and switch to online learning amid signs of ‘exponential growth’ in coronavirus cases.
Cllr Danny Thorpe, head of Greenwich Council, said the Covid-19 situation in the region “is worsening extremely quickly” and now demands “immediate action”.
“We now have the highest infection rates in Greenwich than ever since March, and for these reasons I have therefore asked all schools in Greenwich to close their premises from Monday evening and move on to the e-learning for the duration of the quarter, with the exception of key child laborers and those with special needs, ”Thorpe said in a statement.
The Borough of London has seen its seven-day sliding rate of new Covid-19 cases rise sharply in recent days, with 248.3 cases per 100,000 people registered in the seven days to December 9, up from 158 cases in the seven days preceding December 2.
However, its rate remains below the worst affected areas of London, with the borough of Havering recording an infection rate of 506.3 cases per 100,000 population in the seven days to December 9.
The decision to close schools came after the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, warned residents that the capital could be heading towards Level 3 restrictions within days due to rising infection rates.
Mr Khan urged Londoners on Saturday to follow social distancing measures and wear face masks during Christmas shopping as crowds poured into popular stores in major cities over the weekend.
Earlier this week Health Secretary Matt Hancock asked students and teachers in parts of London, Kent and Essex to take a Covid test as part of a mass testing program for secondary schools.
“I urge all students, parents and teachers in these areas to come for testing whether or not they have symptoms,” Hancock said.
“While Covid-19 may present a lower risk to children and youth, it still poses a significant risk to their families and communities.”
Meanwhile, secondary schools and colleges in Wales will switch to online learning from Monday as part of a ‘national effort to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus’.
Wales Education Minister Kirsty Williams said on Thursday the decision followed advice from the Welsh chief medical officer that the public health situation in the country was “deteriorating”.
However, English schools have been warned they could face legal action if they allow pupils to learn remotely as Christmas approaches.
Powers introduced through the coronavirus law allow the government to give ‘instructions’ to school principals regarding education provision during the pandemic and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson could seek an injunction. the High Court obliging schools to remain open.
Additional reports by the PA