© Reuters. General view of a empty classroom at Nettlefield Primary School as the majority of schools in the UK close while the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Primary and secondary school children in Northern Ireland will return to the classroom later than planned because of “unprecedented levels” of positive COVID-19 tests since Christmas, Education Minister Peter Weir said on Thursday.

Northern Ireland reported a record 2,143 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, raising the number of cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days to 377 from 227 a week earlier.

The British-run region brought in strict new constraints on Dec. 26, including an effective week-long curfew each night. It will now follow the rest of the United Kingdom and neighbouring Ireland in delaying the return of schools

All primary and post-primary pupils will be taught remotely until Jan. 11, when most will return to their classrooms. Younger secondary school pupils will continue to be taught online until the end of January.

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