People urged to stay at home as part of new measures

Total coronavirus cases in Ireland

Total coronavirus cases in Ireland

In an announcement at Government Buildings, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it was essential to "maintain social solidarity and a sense of community in this time of trial".

He said that a list of essential retail outlets is to be provided. Restaurants have been ordered to restrict their services to take-away only.

All playgrounds and holiday parks are also to close.

Sporting events, even those held behind closed doors, have all been cancelled with immediate effect.

Mr Varadkar said gardaí and park rangers would be out and about to ensure that people maintain social distancing.

Constructions sites and factories are not obliged to close but physical distancing will be enforced.

"Social gatherings of individuals outdoors should be of no more than four people, unless you're all from the same household".

Leo Varadkar is urging everyone to stay at home, unless going out is absolutely essential.

"That is the way we reduce the number of people needing hospital treatment at any one time, so we can protect the NHS's ability to cope - and save more lives".

The Irish Prime Minister continued: "You should only go to the shops for medical supplies, out for medical and dental appointments or to care for others or take physical exercise".

All indoor visits to other people's homes should be avoided, he said.

All of these restrictions are set to run until Sunday, April 19. However this date will continue to be reviewed and may be extended further.

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"We're in this for the long haul and this could go on for weeks".

The taoiseach also told students in the Republic of Ireland that there was "a very good chance" their Leaving Certificate (equivalent of A-Level exams) would go ahead.

The Taoiseach said there would be some differences, for example, gatherings of four people here versus two in the UK.

He said the payment is equal to around 75% of the average earnings in the worst-affected sectors and "compares favourably with what is being done in other jurisdictions".

Workers who have lost their job as a result of the coronavirus will now get 350 euro per week.

Meanwhile the COVID-19 Illness benefit available to people who are self-isolating will also be increase to €350 per week.

The package, which also includes enhanced protections for people struggling to pay their mortgage, rent or utility bills will cost the Exchequer €3.7bn over the next three months.

To encourage employers and companies to keep staff, a wage subsidy scheme will be introduced to co-fund 70% of salaries up to a maximum of €30,000 per year.

Private hospitals will operate as public ones, which the government says will add 2,000 beds and free up nine laboratories to cope with the rising numbers of coronavirus patients.

The Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said the virus presents a "once in a century challenge" to Irish society.

"I think it is nearly impossible really to predict the scale of the employment loss", she said.

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