SCHOOLS across the UK will close to all but the children of key workers on Friday 'until further notice', the Prime Minister has said. 

At a briefing on Wednesday (March 18) Prime Minister Boris Johnson said all schools across the UK, including private schools and nurseries, will be closed on Friday  'until further notice' and the changes apply to all pupils apart from the children of key workers and vulnerable children. 

As of of 9am on March 18, a total of 56,221 people have been tested: 53,595 people have tested negative and 2,626 people have tested positive for coronavirus.

Mr Johnson said: "I want to repeat that everyone, everyone must follow the advice to protect themselves and their families but more importantly to protect the wider public. 

"So far the judgement of our advisers has been that closing schools is of limited value in slowing the spread of the epidemic. 

"Looking at the curve of the disease and where we are now we think now that we must apply further downward pressure on an upward curve by closing the schools. 

"I can announce today that after schools shut their gates from Friday afternoon they will remain closed for most pupils, for the vast majority of pupils until further notice. 

"The objective is to slow the spread of the virus and we think this is the right thing to do.

"But of course we also need to keep the NHS going and treat the rising number of cases so we need health workers who are also parents to continue going to work and we need other critical workers with children to keep doing their jobs too from police officers who are keeping us safe to supermarket delivery drivers and social care workers who look after the elderly. 

"Therefore we need schools to make provision for the children of these keyworkers who would otherwise be forced to stay home.

"They will also need to look after the most vulnerable children.

"This will mean there will be far fewer children in the schools and that will help us to slow the spread of the disease."

The Prime Minister said exams will also not take place in May or June as planned but said the Government will ensure children get the qualifications they need for their future careers.

Mr Johnson said meals and vouchers would be provided for pupils who currently receive free school lunches. 

The move comes as the Welsh Government said all schools will close for an early Easter break by Friday at the latest, just minutes before First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced schools in Scotland will also close by the end of the week.

Schools in Northern Ireland will close with immediate effect, although teachers will attend for a further two days.

To date, 104 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK.