Republic of Ireland news

Outpouring of gratitute for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar after state of nation address on Covid-19 pandemic

 Making a rare live broadcast in Ireland’s state broadcaster RTE, Mr Varadkar said he believes there will be 15,000 or more cases of coronavirus in the Republic by the end of the month
Digital Staff

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made an extremely somber state of nation address about the coronavirus pandemic, warning: “This is the calm before the storm, before the surge."

“And when it comes, and it will come, never will so many ask so much of so few," he added. We will do all that we can to support them.”

He said everyone must show solidarity at this time of national sacrifice, saying the damage to the economy caused by Covid19 will be enormous.

Making a rare live broadcast in Ireland’s state broadcaster RTE, Mr Varadkar said he believes there will be 15,000 or more cases of coronavirus in the Republic by the end of the month, and the figure will increase more in the weeks afterwards.

Mr Varadkar said it had been a St Patrick’s day “like no other, a day that none of us will ever forget”.

He said that the Covid-19 emergency is likely to go on well beyond 29 March and could go on until the summer.

“It could go on for months into the summer, so we need to be sensible in the approach we take,” he said.

He added: “We are asking people to come together as a nation by staying apart from each other.

Mr Varadkar said there was a global and national emergency caused by a pandemic the like of which had never been seen before.

“In years to come let them say of us when things were at their worst, we were at our best,” he said.

Mr Varadkar expressed pride in healthcare workers.

“I am so proud of all of them,” he said.

“Not all superheroes wear capes – some wear scrubs and gowns.

“All of our healthcare workers need us to do the right thing in the weeks ahead.

“Our community services and hospitals are being tooled up.

“Essential equipment is on the way. Retired staff are returning to service.  People are training for changed roles.”

The Taoiseach said more restrictions of social interactions would be introduced.

He said the best strategies to deal with the virus focus on testing, contact tracing and social distancing.

“Many of you want to know when this will be over,” he said.

“The truth is we don’t know yet.”

The Taoiseach said at a certain point the Government would ask older people and those with a long-term illness to stay at home for several weeks.

“We are putting in place the systems to ensure that if you are one of them, you will have food, supplies and are checked on,” he said.

“We call this ‘cocooning’ and it will save many lives, particularly the most vulnerable, the most precious in our society.”

Mr Varadkar said the economic impact would be enormous.

“Everyone in our society must show solidarity in this time of national sacrifice,” he said.

“For those who have lost their jobs and had their incomes reduced temporarily, there must be help and understanding from those who can give it, particularly the banks, government bodies and utilities.

“We went into this crisis with a strong economy and the public finances in good order.

“We have the capacity and credit rating to borrow billions if we need to.

“I am confident that our economy will bounce back but the damage will be significant and lasting. The bill will be enormous and it may take years to pay it.”

The Government has already signed off a three billion euro package for health, social welfare and support for businesses.

The Taoiseach urged people to only access news from trusted sources, expressing concern about the impact of false information.

“We need to halt the spread of the virus but we also need to halt the spread of fear,” he said.

“So please rely only on information from trusted sources.  From Government… from the HSE, from the World Health Organisation and from the national media.

“Do not forward or share messages that are from other, unreliable sources.  So much harm has already been caused by those messages and we must insulate our communities and the most vulnerable from the contagion of fear.

“Fear is a virus in itself.”

There was an outpuring of gratitude to Mr Varadkar on social media during and after his address. 

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