Schools in Northern Ireland will close for two weeks - but will the rest of the UK follow?

Wednesday, 14th October 2020, 10:39 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th October 2020, 10:39 am
Schools in Northern Ireland will close from Monday 19 October, in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus (Photo: Shutterstock)
Schools in Northern Ireland will close from Monday 19 October, in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus (Photo: Shutterstock)

Schools in Northern Ireland will close from Monday 19 October, in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.

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The Executive has agreed that schools across the country will close for a two week period, including the October school holidays, until Monday 2 November.

But are other parts of the UK likely to follow suit and also shut schools?

New measures coming into place in Northern Ireland

Alongside schools temporarily closing in Northern Ireland, numerous other measures are also due to come into place to stop the spread of Covid-19.

However, the current restrictions on household mixing are set to remain as they are, which includes no mixing of households in private homes - with some exceptions - and gatherings in gardens limited to six people from no more than two households.

The following measures will come into place for a period of four weeks from Friday 16 October:

  • Closure of the hospitality sector, apart from deliveries and takeaways
  • Other fast-food and takeaway premises to close at 11pm
  • Off-licences and supermarkets not to sell alcohol after 8pm
  • No indoor sport or organised contact sport involving mixing of households, other than at elite level
  • Close-contact services - apart from those meeting essential health needs - to close
  • Mobile hairdressers and make-up artists - also classed as close contact services - prohibited from working in homes
  • Gyms to remain open for individual training but no classes permitted
  • Places of worship to remain open but face coverings mandatory when entering and exiting

Will other parts of the UK also close schools?

Currently, there are no plans for other areas of the UK to close schools on a temporary basis, but with a host of new measures coming into place in different parts of the nation, and two week circuit breaker lockdowns being suggested, it is not definitely ruled out.

England’s three tier system comes into place

A new three tier system comes into place in England today (14 Oct), which will see areas of the country adhering to different rules depending on the level of alert they are placed into.

The highest tier, areas of ‘very high’ alert, has the strictest measures in place, including the closure of pubs, bars and gyms, and currently applies to the Liverpool City Region, but schools in these areas remain open.

However, there have been calls for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to impose a two week circuit breaker lockdown, which could involve schools shutting during this period.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said a two to three week national lockdown over the October half term holidays was needed in order to prevent a “sleepwalk into a long and bleak winter.”

Alongside this, a paper by members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) reportedly calculates that more than 7,000 lives could be saved if schools are closed and the public are told to stay at home for a two week period from 24 October - the day after schools close for half term in England.

Scotland implements new measures

In Scotland, new measures came into place on Friday 9 October. Pubs and restaurants are only able to operate between the hours of 6am to 6pm without serving alcohol. Hospitality venues have closed completely across the five Central Belt health boards of Lothian, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Ayrshire & Arran and Greater Glasgow & Clyde.

However, schools currently remain open, with enhanced hygiene and cleaning arrangements in place.

Local restrictions in place in Wales

In Wales, schools also currently remain open, but a host of other measures are in place. Members of the public are not allowed to meet socially anywhere indoors with people they don’t live with, apart from some exceptions.

People must also not gather outdoors in groups of more than 30 and licensed premises must not sell alcohol after 10pm.

Local restrictions are also in place in some parts of Wales, but again, schools remain open in these areas.