All schools, colleges and childcare facilities in Ireland will close tomorrow until the end of the month, the country’s leader has said.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar made the announcement, saying the measures to combat the spread of coronavirus will remain in place until 29 March.
He made a live statement to the nation from Washington DC, where he is due to meet President Donald Trump as part of the annual St Patrick’s Day programme of events.
Mr Varadkar said the action had to be taken to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“We are a great nation and we have overcome many trials in the past with our determination, and we will prevail again,” he said.
Mr Varadakr said that acting as one nation could save lives and that the economy will suffer, but “we can bounce back”.
He told the nation that many more people in Ireland would get coronavirus and would get sick, adding: “Unfortunately we must face the tragic reality that some people will die,” he said.
While schools and colleges are closed, teaching will be done online or remotely.
In addition, indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor meetings of more than 500 will be cancelled.
Cultural institutions will also be shut.
Mr Varadkar said that people would be encouraged to work from home, but where people do congregate in offices, break times should be “staggered”.
Meetings should be done remotely but restaurants, cafes and other businesses can stay open, he added.
“People should seek to reduce social interactions as much as possible,” Mr Varadkar said.
People entering the country will be told about the new measures and asked to self-isolate if they begin displaying symptoms.
Mr Varadkar said he was acting on new advice from the country’s National Public Health Emergency Team.
He said the government had a duty to protect those most at risk from coronavirus, such as older people and those with underlying conditions.
Health minister Simon Harris said the government was asking older people to reduce their contacts outside their homes.
He added that Ireland had officially moved to the “delay” phase of its response to COVID-19, which aims to reduce the peak impact of the virus and slow its spread.
“We have not witnessed a pandemic of this nature in living memory and this is uncharted territory for us,” Mr Varadkar said.
“We said we would take the right actions at the right time and we have to move now to have the greatest impact.”
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