Political leaders in Ireland issue warnings as the country's number of infections and deaths continues to rise.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris issued dire warnings over the Easter bank holiday weekend as coronavirus continues to spread in Ireland.

Read more: Coronavirus live updates from Ireland

On Easter Sunday, Varadkar tweeted that Ireland faces some of its “darkest days” in the coming weeks as coronavirus deaths continue to mount and said that the country is preparing to reach the peak of the virus later this month.

He warned, “The number of hospitalizations and, sadly, the number of deaths continues to rise. So we cannot lose focus. We cannot lessen our efforts. In fact, we need to redouble them for the next few weeks.

“It’s more important than ever that we persevere.  It’s possible that we haven’t seen the peak yet.  When it comes, perhaps later this month, we will experience some of our darkest days. So we need to maintain our discipline and resolve in the knowledge that better days are to come.”

Your actions are making a difference. The spread of the virus is slowing. It’s more important than ever that we persevere. Taking what we have learned we will build a better society at the end of this — a great society for a great people. Happy Easter. pic.twitter.com/elLd4XKc9O

— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) April 12, 2020

Read more: Thousands of barrels of beer in Ireland to be thrown away due to COVID-19

The Taoiseach’s comments came as the coronavirus death toll continued to rise.

With worse to come, according to Varadkar, his health minister Simon Harris advised on Monday that social distancing of up to two meters between persons could be part of Irish life until a vaccine for coronavirus is available. That could be up to another 18 months.

Already the government has extended its restrictions which have effectively shut down Ireland from the original two weeks, due to expire on Easter Sunday, to another three weeks that expires on May 5.

Harris admitted there is “no magic point” at the start of May where life before COVID-19 can resume.

Despite a claim by Oxford University Professor Sarah Gilbert that she is 80 percent confident a vaccine will be available in September, Harris said a vaccine is not expected to be available for 12 to 18 months.

He said, “I think being truthful, social distancing is going to remain a very big part of life not just in Ireland but the world over.”

This was likely to continue until a vaccine is produced or “an effective treatment for the coronavirus” is developed.

Top medic Professor Philip Nolan, chairman of the Epidemiological Modelling Group, advising the Republic’s emergency team, said there is a “real danger” of another wave of virus cases if any changing of the restrictions on movement is not done correctly.

Nolan told RTE, “As we look to modifying the restrictions, to let people get back to some more activities, there’s a real danger at that point if we don’t do it very, very carefully that we will get a second wave of disease and that, very quickly, if we get this wrong, that we will see a rapid re-emergence of the disease and arrive to a potentially very dangerous peak.”

Read more: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready by September says Oxford scientist

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