Pupils have been encouraged to continue working at home and schools to develop learning catch-up programmes, as schools on Wednesday close in an attempt to clamp down on the coronavirus.Schools in Gauteng and the Western Cape will close at 11:00 on Wednesday in line with President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement that the March school break will be extended until beyond the Easter weekend to curb the spread of the coronavirus.A statement from the Gauteng education department said pupils, who were not writing exams on Wednesday, were dismissed on Tuesday afternoon. Teachers in both provinces will be expected to stay at school until Friday to complete admin work."To make up for the additional 10 days of the first term, the school calendar for the second term will be adjusted to reduce the mid-year holidays by seven days and the third term will be adjusted to reduce the third-term holidays by three days," the statement read.Continue workingThe department stressed the closure by no means meant pupils should forget about schoolwork. They have been encouraged to work from home while being supervised by parents and caregivers."Learners are expected to read passages in the Department of Basic Education workbooks and respond to comprehension questions."Schools have been tasked with preparing catch-up programmes for pupils during the shortened June and September breaks.Clarification: Children & young adults have been infected w/ #COVID19, though at lower rates than older adults. While the vast majority have experienced mild disease, some have experienced severe or critical disease & some young adults & one child, that we are aware of, has died— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) March 16, 2020The Western Cape education department is set to put similar programmes in place and has asked parents and pupils not to give in to anxiousness as a result of the extraordinary measures.Don't panic"We understand that this will be a stressful time for our schools, and that parents and their children will be concerned. We urge you not to panic, and we will do everything we can to support you during this programme."Meanwhile, national education department officials briefed Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, telling MPs the measures were needed as schools were considered high-risk areas for spreading the virus.FOLLOW | Check out our special report on the coronavirus: all the developments in one placeWhile the committee was satisfied with the department's speedy response, MPs said pupils should be given tasks and homework to complete over the extended break to make up for lost time."Educators must provide learners with tasks or assignments they are able to complete, even if it is work they would have done in the second term. This will make the catch-up programme easier on both learners and educators," said committee chairperson Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba.Stay up to date and stay healthy. Subscribe to Health24’s Daily Dose newsletter for important updates on the spread of the coronavirus. Register and manage your newsletters in the new News24 app by clicking on the Profile tab.