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'The calm before the storm': Leo Varadkar warns coronavirus emergency could last into the summer

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that the Republic of Ireland expects to have 15,000 cases of coronavirus by the end of the month.

Mr Varadkar said the Republic of Ireland is currently experiencing the "calm before the storm, before the surge" in relation to the COVID-19 crisis.

Speaking in a rare televised ministerial address on Tuesday, he said that those who are elderly and seriously ill will be asked to stay home for several weeks.

"We're in the middle of a global and a national emergency, a pandemic, the likes of which no-one has ever seen before," Mr Varadkar said.

Discussing the cancellations and closures as emergency measures are put in place, he said: "I know these choices won't be easy, but they are necessary.

The Taoiseach said it is likely these measures will extend beyond March 29, "even into the summer" but that public transport and shops will continue to open.

"Many of you want to know when this will be over; the truth is, we just don't know yet."

"We are asking people to come together as a nation by staying apart from each other," he added.

He reassured the public that "when we are through the worst, we will get people back to work and businesses open again."

While he said that the damage to the economy will be "enormous" he is confident that Ireland can bounce back.

He thanked frontline staff, public transport operators, the media and broadcasters for updating members of the public.

Mr Varadkar announced older people will soon be asked to self-isolate for several weeks.

“At a certain point, we will advise the elderly and people who have a long term illness to stay at home for several weeks,” he said.

“We call it cocooning, and it will save many lives, particularly the lives of the most vulnerable, the most precious in our society,” he added.

He said the government said will ensure people who are asked to cocoon will be checked in on and have food supplies delivered.

He urged people to limit their social media use and to not fall for misinformation.

“Fear is a virus in itself,” he said.

“Constantly scrolling on your phone or obsessing with the latest developments isn’t good for anyone,” he added.

“I send a message of friendship and hope from Ireland to everyone around the world."

A further 69 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19, the Department of Health has confirmed.

They include 29 male and 40 female, with 48 associated with the east of the country, 13 with the south.

Five are in the north/west, and three are associated with the west

There are now 292 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Republic of Ireland.

Irish Independent