DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland will shut schools, universities and childcare facilities until March 29 and restrict all indoor and outdoor mass gathering in response to the spread of the coronavirus, acting Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Thursday.
Ireland confirmed its first death of a patient diagnosed with the coronavirus on Wednesday as the number of confirmed cases of the virus rose to 43 from 34 a day earlier.
There are also 18 cases in Northern Ireland, the British region which shares an open border with the Irish republic.
“From 6 pm today, the following measures are being put in place and they will stay in place until March 29: schools, colleges and childcare facilities will close from tomorrow, where possible teaching will be done online or remotely,” Varadkar said in statement.
“Our advice is that all indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor mass gatherings of more than 5,000 people should be canceled. You need to continue to go to work if you can, but where possible you should work from home.”
Varadkar encouraged people to limit social interactions and for offices to stagger break times and hold meetings remotely to limit contact. While restaurants can stay open, they should look at how to operate social distancing, he added.
Public transport will continue to operate and shops will remain open with plans in place to ensure supply chains will not be interrupted, he said.
The announcement came after Dublin’s Mater Hospital, one of the capital’s main hospitals, postponed all outpatient appointments and elective surgeries until further notice on Thursday, saying the arrangements were necessary in order to deal with the impact of the virus.
It said in a statement that staff across every part of the hospital “are working around the clock” to deal with the virus.
“We’ve a duty as a society to protect ourselves, our parents and grandparents, our family and friends, our co-workers and neighbors,” Varadkar said in the statement which was broadcast on national television from Washington, where he is due to meet President Donald Trump on Thursday.
“In the period ahead, the government will deploy all the resources we can muster. They are extensive but not unlimited. This is going to involve big changes in the way we live our lives and I know I’m asking people to make enormous sacrifices. Acting together as a nation, we can save many lives.”
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