Boris Johnson chaired an emergency COBRA meeting to discuss the UK’s response to the coronavirus outbreak this afternoon, where he launched the second phase of the Government’s response to the outbreak, the “delay phase”. Before the Prime Minister had a chance to announce the outcome of the meeting, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon held a press conference outlining what was agreed, in an apparent breach of the COBRA meeting. She revealed Scottish schools will not be forced to close, despite growing calls to shut them to help prevent the spread of the deadly virus. It comes after another 134 people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of UK cases to 590.
It is not known yet whether schools will remain open across the whole of the UK as Mr Johnson is yet to address the nation.
Ms Sturgeon said it was not necessary to close schools and universities yet, but said the situation would remain under review.
She did however announce that gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled from next week but said this was a Scottish government position only.
The First Minister said that if schools were to close, it would not just be for a week or two, it would be until the disease had passed its peak, which she said would mean schools would be shut until the summer.
She advised that school trips abroad should be cancelled.
Ireland’s Government has initiated more stringent policies, with Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announcing all schools, colleges and childcare facilities in Ireland will close from 6pm today.
He also banned indoor events of more than 100 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people
Mr Varadkar said the measures were to help curb the spread of the virus.
But if Mr Johnson fails to close schools the move will draw anger from parents with a petition demanding the Prime Minister shuts down schools now reaching more than 350,000 signatures.