Ireland coronavirus lockdown: Varadkar triggers MAJOR alert – raft of emergency closures

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) announced schools, colleges and childcare facilities will close from 6pm today in response to the coronavirus outbreak. He also said indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor events of more than 500 people should be cancelled. The Irish leader also called on people to work from home where possible.

One person, who was in Lidl when the news broke, said Mr Varadkar’s announcement has led to a “strange atmosphere”.

They said: “People do seem worried. It’s a strange atmosphere.”

His announcement comes after Ireland announced its first death from coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19.

The elderly woman died in a Dublin hospital on Wednesday.

Mr Varadkar made the announcement from Blair House in Washington DC, where he is currently on a visit to mark St Patrick’s day.

He said: “From 6pm today, the following measures will be 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.

“Cultural institutions will close as well.

“Our advice is that all indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor mass gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled.”

Mr Varadkar said the measures so far do not extend to public transport, shops and restaurants – which will remain open.

But he advised businesses should look at ways to introduce social distancing.

He said: “Public transport will continue to operate, the shops will remain open and we have plans to ensure that supply chains will not be interrupted.”

“We need the public and businesses to take a sensible, level headed and responsible approach during the difficult time.

“Restaurants, cafes and other businesses can stay open but to look at ways they can implement public health advice and social distancing.”

He said we have not witnessed a pandemic of this nature in living memory and acting now will have the greatest impact.

Chris Smyth, Whitehall Editor at the Times, has warned Ireland’s announcement causes a “political dilemma” for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

He said: “He criticised other countries for knee-jerk action yesterday, but is feeling the pressure to announce something today (even if only promise of action next week).

“If he holds the line today, Britain will seem increasingly isolated from its neighbours.”

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