U.K. Closes Schools as Government Weighs Locking Down London

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U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said schools will close from Friday, increasing restrictions on the British population as the country grapples with a spiraling coronavirus crisis.

Johnson also didn’t rule out imposing tighter controls on London as his government seeks to clamp down on the pandemic.

“After schools shut their gates on Friday afternoon, they will remain closed for most pupils, the vast majority of pupils, until further notice,” Johnson told reporters in London. “We are simultaneously asking nurseries and private schools to do the same.”

The latest announcement covers English schools, after administrators in Scotland and Wales earlier announced similar moves.

The premier on Tuesday likened his administration to a wartime government as Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced 350 billion pounds ($410 billion) worth of government-backed loans, grants and tax cuts to help keep businesses afloat during the crisis.

On Wednesday, Sunak said the government would go further, with officials “looking at every conceivable tool” at their disposal. “We stand ready to do what it takes,” he told a panel of lawmakers when asked about the possibility of the government bailing out struggling firms by buying them or stakes in them.

With the pound plunging to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985, further measures intended to stop the virus spreading quickly across the country could include restricting the movement of people in London, though such steps are not likely before Friday at the earliest, one official said.

“We will not hesitate to bring forward further and faster measures when we think that is necessary,” Johnson said, when asked about the prospect of shutting down the capital.

The outbreak is at a more advanced stage in the capital and Johnson has already urged residents to pay particular attention to the need to work from home and avoid social contact.

— With assistance by Jill Ward, and Olivia Konotey-Ahulu

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