England to delay return to school amid rising Covid-19 infection rates. Image Source: IANS News

London, Jan 3 : All schools in England should remain closed for two more weeks due to the rising Covid-19 infections, the UK's biggest teaching union has said.

On Saturday,the National Education Union (NEU), which has more than 450,000 members in the country, called for all primary and secondary schools to be closed, saying "what is right for London is right for the rest of the country", Xinhua news agency reported.

NEU Joint General Secretary Mary Bousted told the BBC on Saturday that she hoped a closure of all schools would give time for a mass-testing system to be set up, calling for this to be led by public health bodies.

Her initiative came after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the previous day that all London primary and secondary schools would remain shut on Monday, rather than only those in some boroughs, as the British capital battles with high levels of coronavirus infections.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed the government's U-turn policy on London primary schools, which came two days after Williamson said only those in 22 of London's 32 boroughs would be affected by the closures.

Some London borough leaders wrote to the UK government on January 1, asking for the official efforts to reverse plans to reopen primary schools in some areas.

The government said it had decided all primary schools in London would be required to provide remote learning after a further review of coronavirus transmission rates, the BBC reported.

Vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers will continue to attend school, the government said, adding that early years care, alternative provision and special schools will remain open.

Schools in England were due to reopen on January 4 when the new school term begins, but the British government has now decided to delay the school reopening till January 18 amid the rising infection rates.

The government has said the measure would be reviewed fortnightly and Williamson said he wants school closures to be as "short as possible".

London and many other parts of England have already been under the highest Tier Four restrictions, which require residents in the areas to stay at home, with limited exemptions.

People are also urged to work from home when they can, and should not enter or leave those areas.

New figures from the National Health Service (NHS) revealed that 5,685 hospital beds in London were filled by Covid-19 patients on New Year's Day, about 10 per cent more than the first wave peak of 5,201 on April 9, 2020.

Meanwhile, intensive care units in three London hospitals were said to have been "full" on New Year's Eve, leaving patients waiting to be transferred to other hospitals for critical care, the London-based Evening Standard newspaper reported.

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