Ireland shuts schools and cancels events in coronavirus lockdown

12 March 2020, 23:37

Leo Varadkar has announced schools and universities in Ireland will be closing to stem the spread of coronavirus
Leo Varadkar has announced schools and universities in Ireland will be closing to stem the spread of coronavirus. Picture: PA

Ireland has announced it will shut down all schools, colleges, childcare facilities and cultural institutions, and will cancel all mass gatherings in an escalation to its response to coronavirus.

Any events of more than 100 people indoors or 500 people outdoors will be cancelled and people have been advised to work from home.

In cases where citizens must go into work, break times must be staggered.

Teaching will also continue to be carried out either online or remotely, where possible.

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The measures, which come into effect from 6pm today until 29 March, were announced in a brief press conference from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Speaking from Washington, the Irish leader noted that a pandemic such as COVID-19 had not been experienced "in living memory".

He added that while the measures would come as a "real shock", they were being introduced due to a "special duty to protect those who are vulnerable" and more susceptible to the virus.

"There will be many more cases in Ireland and the tragic reality is that some people will die," he said.

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Mr Varadkar also stressed that earlier measures - such as washing hands regularly - were just as important.

Shops, cafes and other business are to stay open, but people should "seek to reduce social interaction as much as possible," he said.

Meanwhile, Ireland's deputy premier Simon Coveney said the next weeks will be "difficult" and will have a "deep impact" on workers doing their jobs.

He said: "We are asking Irish people to stay apart. 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."

Ireland has so far recorded 43 cases of COVID-19 with one death, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Globally, more than 127,000 people have been tested positive, while more than 4,700 people have lost their lives to the virus.

The majority of cases and deaths have been recorded in China, with Italy and Iran being the second and third worst-hit nations respectively.