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Ireland warns against all but essential travel to Italy amid virus outbreak

Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the situation is ‘totally unprecedented’.

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Simon Coveney (Phil Noble/PA)

Simon Coveney (Phil Noble/PA)

Simon Coveney (Phil Noble/PA)

The Irish government has tightened its travel restrictions, warning citizens against all but essential travel to Italy.

Ireland’s deputy leader Simon Coveney said the “totally unprecedented” advice comes after the Italian government extended quarantine measures to the whole country.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs said people should not travel to Italy unless it is absolutely necessary.

He said the vast majority of people who tested positive for coronavirus in Ireland had travelled to northern Italy.

Mr Coveney told RTE’s Morning Ireland that it is “totally unprecedented” for a Minister of Foreign Affairs to advise Irish citizens not to travel to a large EU member state.

“But that is the advice this morning,” Mr Coveney added.

“I’m in favour of anything that public health experts say would work and I think politicians need to listen to people who are knowledgeable on how to make the right decisions here.

“The truth is that we have no experts on the planet on Covid-19 because it’s new, 13 weeks ago no-one ever heard of it.”

Mr Coveney added that it is inevitable Ireland will move to the delay phase.

Coronavirus advice
Mr Coveney warned that the situation was unprecedented (Philip Toscano/PA)

He explained: “The (delay phase) is trying to stop the spread of the virus in a population that has no immunity and recognising the reality that we effectively have no vaccine and no treatment.”

On Tuesday evening, 10 more cases of Covid-19 in the Republic were confirmed, bringing the total to 34.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will later take part in a teleconference with other EU leaders to discuss a joint response to the coronavirus outbreak, where he is expected to raise the issue of flights and travel restrictions.

Trinity College Dublin confirmed on Tuesday that it is closing its lecture halls and other buildings amid the coronavirus threat.

In a statement posted on the university’s website, it said: “From tomorrow morning (Wednesday 11th), all lectures will be delivered online for the rest of the semester rather than physically in a lecture hall.

“However, tutorials, seminars and laboratory practicals will all continue to be given in the usual fashion while using social distancing protocols.

“This will allow Trinity to maintain continuity of teaching and learning while minimising the need to bring together students in large groups.

“This will slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus, but further measures may be necessary and these arrangements will be kept under continuous review.”

The university also confirmed it is closing Ireland’s oldest library and the Book of Kells exhibition from Tuesday at 1pm.

The Old Library, the Science Gallery and the Douglas Hyde Gallery will remain closed as the threat of coronavirus continues to grow.

The university said the measures are being taken in the interests of the public’s health and to decrease any potential impacts on the community.

Meanwhile, Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia on March 26 will be played behind closed doors on the instruction of the Slovakian government.

The FAI released a statement announcing that all fans who purchased tickets for the game in Bratislava will be refunded.

Mr Coveney also said that the government is taking advice from experts.

He added: “We are trying to provide responses that are proportionate, so if you shut a country down without good reason and evidence to back that up, then I think you cause significant damage to people’s quality of life.

“What we’re trying to do is follow the public health advice that is appropriate given the level of threat at any given time.

“I’m a politician, a policymaker, and we need to listen to experts in terms of the recommendations and the advice that they give.

“This response needs to be health-driven and that is what we’re doing, rather than politicians going off on solo runs and doing things that aren’t recommended.

“We’re very much working with our public health team and with the HSE.”

On Monday, Mr Varadkar warned that more than half of the population in the Republic of Ireland could contract Covid-19.

He made the comments as the government unveiled a 430 million euro financial aid package to tackle the health crisis.

The government also cancelled all St Patrick’s Day parades across the country.

The 430 million euro will be allocated to provide additional staff and capacity in the health service to deal with the virus, while the government also plans to amend legislation on sick pay to make it available from the first day of illness rather than the current six days.

PA