Coronavirus: NI schools to close due to Covid-19 epidemic

Michelle O'Neill and Arlene Foster


Schools across Northern Ireland are to close to pupils from Monday, NI First Minister Arlene Foster has said.

Six new cases of the virus were confirmed in NI on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 68.

It has been announced that schools in England, Scotland and Wales will close from Friday.

A substantial number of schools across Northern Ireland had already decided to close for the rest of this week. Some are listed on the NI Direct website.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Mrs Foster, standing alongside Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, said now was the right time to shut schools.

“We have agreed that all schools will close to pupils from Monday 23 March,” Mrs Foster said.

“The societal and economic impact of this measure will be enormous as parents have to adjust their routine to deal with this unplanned long-term closure.”

She added it was a time of “unprecedented challenge”.

Stormont sources had earlier incorrectly said schools would close immediately for pupils, and for staff from Monday.


Teaching unions had called on Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill to set a date for school closures.

Across the UK, confirmed cases of the virus rose to 2,626 on Wednesday, from 1,950 on Tuesday. A total of 71 people have died.

The UK death toll has now reached 104 after 32 more people died in England after testing positive.


Schools and colleges in the Republic of Ireland have been closed since last Thursday.

Some politicians, including Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, had been calling for the same action to take place in Northern Ireland.

There are currently 292 confirmed cases in the Republic after 69 new cases were revealed on Tuesday.

On Monday all 10 special schools in Belfast announced they were to close indefinitely.

In other developments:

  • Libraries NI are to close all public libraries and out of hours access from 17:00 on Friday until further notice
  • National Trust opening many of their gardens and park for free but houses, cafes and shops to close
  • Presbyterian Church and Methodist Church suspend church services across the island of Ireland
  • Apprentice Boys of Derry pull Easter parade and all meetings and services
  • The UK death toll has hit 71
  • Confirmed cases pass 200,000 worldwide and more than 8,000 people have died

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