Republic of Ireland news

Coronavirus: Ireland on lockdown for a fortnight

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Blair House, Washington DC, during a press conference where he announced that all schools, colleges and childcare facilities in Ireland will close until March 29 as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire 

Schools, colleges and public facilities are to close across the Republic in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Here are some of the key measures and recommendations implemented by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Thursday following advice from health officials.

– Schools, colleges and childcare facilities will close from Friday.

– Where possible, teaching will be done online or remotely.

– Cultural institutions like museums and tourist sites will close.

– All indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor events involving more than 500 people should be cancelled.

– Arrangements are being made to ensure everyone entering Ireland through ports and airports is fully informed and self-isolates if they develop symptoms.

– People should continue to go to work if they can but where possible should work from home.

– To reduce unnecessary face-to-face interaction in the workplace, break times and working times should be staggered and meetings done remotely or by phone.

– Public transport will continue to operate.

– Shops will remain open and there are plans to ensure supply chains will not be interrupted.

– Restaurants, cafes and other businesses can stay open but should look at ways to implement public health advice on social distancing.

– Outside work people should seek to reduce social interactions as much as possible.

Mr Varadkar made the announcement this morning, saying measures will come into effect from 6pm today until March 29.

Teaching will be done online or remotely.

Mr Varadkar appealed to businesses to facilitate home working.

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He said: "Together we can slow the virus in its tracks and push it back.

"Acting together, as one nation, we can save many lives."

He currently leads a caretaker government following last month's inconclusive election, and political meetings aimed at forming a new administration have been paused due to the emergency.

Mr Varadkar addressed the nation from Washington DC, where he is meeting US President Donald Trump, as he took swift action following updated advice from medics yesterday.

Health Minister Simon Harris confirmed the country has entered the delay phase of its response to the virus.

That means the infection is being transmitted between members of the community rather than limited to those who have been to Italy or other blighted regions or their close contacts.

The drastic steps aim to reduce the peak impact of the virus and slow its spread, relieving pressure on the health system.

Mr Varadkar said many more people in the Republic would fall ill with the infection.

And he added: "Unfortunately we must face the tragic reality that some people will die.

"The virus is all over the world, it will continue to spread but it can be slowed."

He said the government has a duty to protect those at-risk categories of citizens, such as older people and those with underlying health conditions.

"We said we would take the right actions at the right time and we have to move now to have the greatest impact," he said.

School closures are among restrictions coming into place at 6pm on Thursday.

People have been urged to continue to go to work but, where possible, do so from home.

Public transport will continue to operate.

Mr Varadkar said: "Above all, we all need to look out for each other.

"Ireland is a great nation. And we are great people.

"We have experienced hardship and struggle before. We have overcome many trials in the past with our determination and our spirit.

"We will prevail."

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the radical measures will be a lot for the Irish public to take in.

“We are asking Irish people to stay apart,” he said.

“The days and weeks ahead will be difficult and the government cannot do this on its own.

“The most effective tool is to do everything we can to slow down the spread. Those who are vulnerable are precious.

“It will have a deep impact on people’s abilities to do their job.

“We are asking people to continue to work where possible. Those who go to the places of work should limit contact.”

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