COVID-19: measures step up once more as UK schools set to close

Please Note: All information correct at time of writing on 18 March 2020. We do our very best to make sure our information is as up to date as possible, but we’d encourage you to check out our latest articles and to check the government website for updates as they happen.

This evening Prime Minister Boris Johnson held his third daily briefing, announcing further measures the government is taking as they tackle the spread of novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Beginning with stressing how important it is for everyone to comply with the newly ramped-up self-isolation guidance revealed on Monday, the main focus of today’s (18 March) announcement was the issue of school closures.

Here’s our round-up of today’s COVID-19 talking points for all business owners and employers:

  • The Prime Minister explained that the point has now come to close schools. This follows announcements on school closures in Wales and Scotland and earlier today. Northern Irish First Minister Arlene Foster confirmed the same for Nothern Ireland shortly after Johnson’s press conference.
  • This will happen from Friday and for most pupils, this will be until further notice. The PM confirmed these closures are mandatory.
  • Exams in May and June have been cancelled.
  • ‘Key workers” children need to be cared for to ensure continuing front line support (clarification on these groups will be given shortly) and there will also be a need to care for vulnerable children. Schools will, therefore, remain open for these groups.
  • Nurseries and private schools will be asked to do the same, with Johnson reassuring, “we are providing financial support where it’s needed.”
  • The Prime Minister reminded everyone that children should not be left with older relatives, who may be particularly vulnerable.
  • Johnson reiterated that government will not hesitate to go “further and faster” over the coming days to take whatever further action is necessary.

As is customary, the formal conference ended with a question and answer session for the journalists present. This raised a number of interesting points that will be of particular relevance to business owners:

  • When asked what would happen to children who needed exam qualifications to move on in their education, the PM replied, “we will make sure that their progress is not impeded” but did not specify how this will be done.
  • Johnson also confirmed that the government will be introducing legislation to help renters avoid no-fault evictions – which give landlords the power to evict tenants without reason.
  • The PM was asked whether there was any intention to bring in legal restrictions of where/when people can travel (a complete lockdown). He said that people are not subject to these sorts of restrictions but they are not ruling anything out.

The main questions that arise out of Wednesday’s briefing centre on the subjects of ‘key workers’ and financial compensation.

It still remains unclear exactly who qualifies as a ‘key worker’. Front line NHS staff are obvious, but it may be that this will also include employees working in the care sector.

We’re also still waiting to find out what the promised financial compensation for nurseries and independent schools will look like.

Tracking the progress of coronavirus to keep your business up to date

We’re tracking the government updates as they happen, to help translate how they will affect your business in this time of unprecedented change – and updating our advice regularly.

If you’ve got any questions about the impact of coronavirus on your business, you can visit our Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions, which is regularly refreshed. And if you’re considering a move to temporary homeworking, you can find our guide right here.

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