The Asian Age

UK to close schools, troops on standby as virus toll rises

PM Boris said that exceptions will be made for the children of key workers


London, March 19: Britain announced Wednesday it would be closing schools in the coming days and placing 20,000 troops on standby in efforts to stem the spread of coronaviru­s, as the death toll topped 100.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had held off following the lead of other European countries because of the impact it would have on the workforce.

But as the outbreak spreads and the death toll reached 104, up from 71 in a day, he said schools would be closed indefinite­ly later this week.

“After schools shut their gates from Friday afternoon, they will remain closed,” he told his daily news conference.

Exceptions will be made for the children of key workers — including healthcare staff, police and delivery drivers — and for the most vulnerable children.

Johnson earlier this week advised people to work from home and avoid unnecessar­y social contact and travel, warning the infection rate was starting to spike.

On Wednesday he said this was having an effect but repeated advice for people with symptoms to self-isolate for between one and two weeks, depending on circumstan­ces.

“We will not hesitate to bring forward further and faster added.

On Wednesday evening the Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced that 20,000 military personnel were being placed at “higher readiness” to help public services as part of a “COVID Support Force”.

Defense secretary Ben Wallace said the armed forces “stand ready to protect Britain”.

The MoD said reservists would be called up and 150 military personnel trained measures,” he to drive oxygen tankers to support the health service, if needed. Speculatio­n is rife that London in particular could soon be subject to more draconian measures, as the capital records the most number of cases.

“We know London is ahead of the rest of us so we may see more stringent measures than even those that we have announced so far,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in Edinburgh earlier.

— Agencies

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