chools in the London borough of Greenwich will close tomorrow and switch to remote learning after an “exponential growth” in Covid-19 cases.
The South East London borough has around 225 cases per 100,000 people – above the national average.
In the first week of December, cases shot up from 151.4 per 100,000 rising 48.6 per cent, according to latest data.
Greenwich is only the 14th highest borough in London for infections with Havering at the top with over double the cases of 470.8 per 100,000 people.
It is unclear if more boroughs will follow Greenwich’s lead and close more schools.
Council leader Cllr Danny Thorpe said in a statement that Public Health England had advised the council to shut schools as the situation in relation to Covid was “escalating extremely quickly.”
He wrote: “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, and 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).”
The former teacher said that this was not the time to extend Christmas celebrations and he was only taking this action to reduce transmission of the deadly virus that claimed 144 more lives today.
“I wouldn’t be asking for this unless the risk was extreme, but with numbers rising so rapidly it is clear action is needed,” he said.
A DfE spokesperson said:“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 and our regional school commissioner teams continue to support local authorities and school trusts to remain open and help resolve any operational issues.”
Some parents begged the leader of the council to reconsider the closures as term ends on Friday.
One parent replied on Twitter: “I’m really sorry but that’s a really bad move. The schools are closing on Friday anyway. Kids will be placed with grandparents and other childcare arrangements. Kids are safer in their bubbles at school than in parks. Don’t do this!”
Covid-19 case rates are rising in two-thirds of all local areas in England, the latest data shows.
A total of 208 out of 315 local authority areas recorded a week-on-week increase in rates in the seven days to December 9.
This includes every borough of London, 39 of the 45 local areas in Eastern England, and 58 of the 67 local areas in south-east England.
In north-west England, where rates had previously been falling across almost the whole region, the latest figures show they are up in around half of areas (19 out of a total of 39).
All figures are based on Public Health England data published on Sunday afternoon.