Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced a total shutdown of Irish colleges, schools, and childcare facilities amid fears of a further outbreak of Covid-19.
The measures will be in place from 6 pm GMT tonight, Thursday, March 12 until Sunday, March 29.
Varadkar addressed the media at a press conference in Washington D.C., where he is making his annual state visit for St. Patrick's Day.
The Irish leader announced an almost total shut down of public services, including tourist attractions. Schools, colleges, and childcare facilities will close from tomorrow, March 13. Online and remote teaching is encouraged where possible.
The Irish Government is also canceling all public indoor events of more than 100 people and outdoor events of more than 500 people. Public transport will remain operational.
Shops will remain open and there is a plan in place to ensure the supply chain will not be interrupted.
Restaurants and cafes and other businesses are permitted to stay open, however, Varadkar said they should look at ways to implement advice on social distancing and people should reduce their social interactions as much as possible.
Varadkar appealed to Irish citizens to work remotely where possible in order to curb the spread of the virus.
Speaking about the severity of coronavirus COVID-19, which is now officially classed as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, Varadkar said there will be more cases and more people will get sick. He added, “unfortunately we must face the tragic reality that some people will die."
Varadkar, who is a doctor by trade said, we have “not witnessed a pandemic of this nature in living history and we are in uncharted territory."
During the press conference, he said the people of Ireland can continue to go to work but if possible work from home. He said break times and working times at work should be staggered and meetings done remotely or on the phone, if possible.
He called on the people of Ireland to take a "sensible, level-headed approach."
Varadkar ended his speech by saying: “Our health care workers have been at the forefront of this crisis since it started, and they will be at the frontline of the crisis in the time ahead.
"We must do all we can to help them, so they can help those who need help the most. I know that some of this is coming as a real shock. And it’s going to involve big changes in the way we live our lives. And I know that I’m asking people to make enormous sacrifices. But we’re doing it for each other.
“Together we can slow the virus in its tracks and push it back together as one nation we can save many lives. Our economy will suffer. But we can bounce back.
"We are a great nation and we have overcome many trials in the past with our determination, and we will prevail again."
Minister for Health Simon Harris urged older people to reduce social interactions outside the home.
Harris said that Ireland had moved to "delay phase" regarding the virus. It had previously been in "containment phase."
Tanáiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Simon Coveney, meanwhile, said that the measures are a lot for the Irish public to take on board. He said that the Irish Government had been planning for the delay phase for some time.
"We are asking Irish people to stay apart," he said.
"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."
Minister for Education Joe McHugh, said that many Irish schools have been preparing to close for weeks and said that he is confident that the Irish education system will be able to cope with the cancelations.
He called on students to bring all textbooks home with them today.
So far, Ireland has confirmed 43 cases of Coronavirus and one patient has died. There have been 61 cases on the island of Ireland and Varadkar said that that number would grow significantly in the coming weeks.