| 0.9°C Belfast

15,000 could have virus by end of March, says Taoiseach

Close

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

PA

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

The Taoiseach has said he expects an "exponential rise" in confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Republic every day for the next couple of weeks.

Leo Varadkar said there could be 15,000 by the end of March.

He was speaking last night as it was confirmed there are 54 new cases of coronavirus confirmed in the south - bringing the total number of confirmed cases there to 223.

He said the economic impact of Covid-19 on the country will be "severe".

"Unfortunately a lot of people are going to lose their jobs and businesses will have to close," he said.

"The economy is going to slow down dramatically but we are confident that it will bounce back. Our first priority is to help people who have lost their jobs to get the social protection they need."

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has said Irish residents should avoid all non-essential overseas travel.

Speaking in Dublin, he said as of last night, the Irish government is advising against all non-essential travel out of the Republic, including the UK but not Northern Ireland.

He said: "Distinguishing between countries is increasingly difficult because of the rapid pace of the spread of the virus.

"We don't want Irish people stranded in different parts of the world and Europe unable to get home."

Mr Coveney said the travel restrictions will be imposed on everyone who enters the Republic from now on. People who arrive will be asked to restrict their movements.

He said: "It is not quite self-isolation but involves significant restrictions."

He said non-essential travel can be defined as "people who are choosing to go overseas and do not need to. This is our clear health advice".

"We cannot be sure if they can get back and we predict there will be major disruptions to all flight activity in the coming weeks.

"Non-essential travel should not be happening to and from this island - we want to keep people safe and we want to ensure people get back safely."

Mr Varadkar said most people will not require a stay in hospital but some will require intensive or critical care. "The objective is to flatten the curve but the curve has to rise exponentially before it decreases," the Taoiseach said.

It is estimated up to 140,000 people who work in restaurants, pubs and childcare have been laid off work because of measures taken to tackle Covid-19.

Belfast Telegraph