Ireland to close all schools over coronavirus at end of today

Ireland will close all its schools, colleges and childcare facilities until March 29 as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar announced a raft of social-distancing measures, including home-working and a ban on large gatherings.

The move will begin at 6pm today and officials admitted ‘the days and weeks ahead will be difficult.’

Ireland recorded its first fatality from Covid-19 yesterday and has 34 confirmed cases.

Mr Varadkhar spoke during a visit to Washington DC, hours after US President Donald Trump announced a ban on travel from EU countries.

The Irish premier said that indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor meetings of more than 500 will be cancelled.

Anyone entering Ireland will be informed of the measures and asked to self-isolate if they are displaying symptoms, the Irish premier added.

He added that working from home will be encouraged but where people do congregate in offices break times should be ‘staggered’.

Meetings should be done remotely but restaurants, cafes and other businesses can stay open.

Mr Varadkar said: ‘People should seek to reduce social interactions as much as possible.’

The Taoiseach said Ireland will use substantial but not unlimited resources to address the crisis.

He added that acting as one nation could save lives and that the 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,’ Mr Varadkar said.

His deputy, Simon Coveney, said the radical measures will be a lot for the Irish public to take in.

‘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.

‘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.’

Over in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce that the outbreak can no longer be detained.

He will signal the start of the next phase and social distancing measures are also set to be brought in.

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