SCHOOLS will close “until further notice” on Friday afternoon, as the government steps up its measures to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Education secretary, Gavin Williamson said schools will close for all pupils except children of key workers and the most vulnerable.

He said: “I want to provide parents, students and staff with the certainty they need.

“After schools shut their gates on Friday afternoon they will remain closed until further notice.

“This will be for all children except to those of key workers and where children who are most vulnerable.”

At his daily press conference, prime minster Boris Johnson reiterated the message that all schools will be closed.

Mr Johnson added: “Now we must apply downward pressure on that upward curve by closing the schools.

“We are asking nurseries and private schools to do the same, and we’re providing financial support where needed.

“Children must not be left with older grandparents who may be vulnerable. I appreciate this is difficult and thank families for their sacrifices.

“We will take the right steps, at the right times, guided by the science.”

As of 9am on Wednesday, there were 2,626 confirmed cases in the UK, a jump of 676.

Mr Johnson said government hopes to do 25,000 tests a day.

When asked about putting London on lockdown to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Mr Johnson said: “We will not hesitate to bring forward further and faster measures where necessary.”

BCP Councillor Sandra Moore, portfolio holder for children and families, said the decision was “inevitable”.

Cllr Moore said: “They said they were going to close in Scotland and Wales so it was clearly going to be a matter of time.

“It is going to be a struggle for some parents. They have said it will be open for children of key workers and people with special needs. They are looking after the most vulnerable.

“It will be quite a struggle. Originally they were hoping to go to Easter, they have been working on a plan for the whole of this week.”

Cllr Moore said the BCP Council website is updated daily with information helpful for parents during these challenging times.

“BCP is trying to put out all the information,” she added.

Mr Johnson confirmed meals and vouchers would be provided for pupils who currently receive free school lunches and said exams will not take place in May and June as planned.

Schools in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also close on Friday.