SADIQ Khan has called for all schools in London to shut from today following a surge in Covid cases in the city.
It comes hours after Labour-run Greenwich council announced it is to close its classrooms for Christmas from tonight.
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Schools in Greenwich, South East London will shut early ahead of Christmas, council chiefs have announcedCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Across the UK, another 18,447 people have tested positive for the deadly bug overnight
The Mayor of London is now calling for all schools across 32 boroughs to shut as the city teeters on the brink of moving into Tier 3 this week.
It would force hundreds of thousands of pupils to study online and comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s vowed to keep kids in school.
Mr Khan will brief London MPs on the latest figures, which show that the infection is now doubling every four days in the city.
The Mayor’s spokesman said: “The mayor is backing the early closure of schools and would like the Government to consider shutting schools from Tuesday.
“He wants tomorrow (Monday) to be the last day at school.”
Greenwich council leader Danny Thorpe said yesterday Public Health England had advised the authority to shut all 133 schools as Covid cases were “escalating extremely quickly”.
They are set to close today, instead of Thursday, and move classes online for the final three days of term, except for the children of key workers.
Cllr Thorpe said: “We have the highest rates of infection since March.
“I’m asking for this to reduce the risk of transmission.”
He said breakfast boxes and free school meals would still be available to those who were eligible.
Greenwich in South East London would be the first borough to shut all schools since the first lockdown.
And it comes just days after the Government revealed it could force schools to remain open by applying for a High Court injunction.
Meanwhile, the capital looks set to go from Tier 2 to Tier 3 when measures are reviewed on Wednesday.
In an open letter, Cllr Thorpe said the risk was “extreme”.
“The situation in Greenwich in relation to Covid-19 is now escalating extremely quickly,” he said.
“I have today been briefed by colleagues from Public Health England that the pandemic in Greenwich is now showing signs that we are in a period of exponential growth that demands immediate action.
“We now have the highest rates of infection in Greenwich than at any time since March.
“For these reasons, I have therefore asked all schools in Greenwich to close their premises from Monday evening and move to online learning for the duration of the term, with the exception of key worker children and those with specific needs (exactly the same as in the first lockdown).”
Sadiq Khan wants all schools in London to close today for Christmas holidays
Council chiefs in Greenwich urge parents not to kick off Christmas early
Cllr Thorpe said the risk is ‘extreme’
And in a separate message to headteachers, the official said: “I’m sorry to disturb a weekend, but frankly I know they almost seem a thing of the past given how hard you are working.
“I’ve had a number of conversations with heads over the last week and I
know how difficult things have been, especially the last week.
“It has become clear in the last few days that rates of Covid-19 are rising extremely rapidly, both within Greenwich and across London.
“The latest data seems to suggest the rate of infection is doubling in the city every four days.”
New powers introduced through the Coronavirus Act allow the Government to issue ‘directions’ to headteachers around education provision during the pandemic.
Should schools fail to comply after being directed to remain open, Gavin Williamson can apply for a High Court injunction forcing them to do so.
It is understood that directions under the act would only be used as a last resort, while a court order would be sought if they were not followed.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said tonight: “It is a national priority to keep education settings open full time and it is vital that children remain in school until the end of the term.
“Schools, colleges and early years settings across the country have worked tremendously hard to put protective measures in place that are helping reduce the risk of the virus being transmitted.
“Our regional school commissioner teams continue to support local authorities and school trusts to remain open and help resolve any operational issues.”
The Government will work with Greenwich council in a bid to keep schools open – and officials say that it’s their “strong expectation” that all schools enable full-time attendance.
But there are concerns Greenwich councillor’s decision could pave the way for other areas to shut schools.
Covid-19 case rates are rising in two-thirds of all local areas in England, the latest data shows – with soaring rates in every borough of the capital.
It is vital that children remain in school until the end of the term.
Department for Education
The London borough of Havering now has the fifth highest rate of new cases in the country.
It’s claimed the city could be split into different tiers to keep central areas booming – while shutting down Covid hotspots on the outskirts.
Tory MPs have urged Boris Johnson not to inflict “untold damage” on the capital by shifting it into the highest tier.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is now thought to be considering shifting the hardest hit parts of London into Tier 3 – while leaving the centre in Tier 2.
That would allow pubs and restaurants in the West End to keep their doors open during one of their busiest times of the year.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove is reportedly one of the MPs who have suggested that only the London boroughs that have the highest infection rates – on the outskirts of the city – should be placed in Tier 3.
They say putting all of London in Tier 3 will cause a £3billion catastrophic hit to the economy.
The worst affected areas of the capital are in the east, including Walthamstow, Redbridge, Newham and Barking.
Nationally, Swale in Kent continues to have the highest rate in England, with 630.3 cases per 100,000 people.
Medway, also in Kent, has the second highest rate, while Basildon in Essex is in third place.
It was announced earlier this week that thousands of schoolkids across London, Essex and Kent will get tested during a rapid drive to force down another wave of the virus.
Pupils in secondary schools in a string of boroughs are being urged to come forward to get tested to stop the spread – with one in three people with the virus still showing no symptoms at all.
London could be split into different tiers, it’s claimed
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