• Taoiseach addresses Ireland on St Patrick's Day to warn of coming hardship
• Today: 354 cases confirmed in Ireland
• Predicted: 15,000 Covid-19 cases in Ireland within 2 weeks
On what he called "A St. Patrick's Day like no other," Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned the nation that the expanding "crisis will last months and cause enormous economic damage."
From Ireland's RTÉ News:
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the coronavirus emergency is likely to go on well beyond 29 March and could go on for months into the summer. In a special Ministerial Briefing broadcast, he said that "this is the calm before the storm and the surge will come".
His address comes after 69 new cases were confirmed in the Republic, bringing the overall number to 292.
A further ten cases have been confirmed in Northern Ireland, bringing the total there to 62. Overall there are 354 cases on the island of Ireland.
Mr Varadkar said it is believed that there could be 15,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in this country by the end of the month.
Here are the Irish leader's remarks in full, and video.
Lá Fhéile Pádraig shona daoibh!
This is a Saint Patrick's Day like no other.
A day that none of us will ever forget.
Today's children will tell their own children and grandchildren about the national holiday in 2020 that had no parades or parties, but instead saw everyone staying at home to protect each other.
In years to come, let them say of us, when things were at their worst, we were at our best.
Our country is making big demands of our healthcare staff, big demands of every single one of us.
Tonight I want you to know why these actions are being taken and what more needs to be done.
We are in the midst of a global and national emergency – a pandemic – the likes of which none of us has seen before.
So far the number of cases in Ireland has been relatively small.
However, we believe that number will rise to fifteen thousand cases or more by the end of the month and rise further in the weeks thereafter.
The vast majority of us who contract Covid-19 will experience a mild illness, but some will be hospitalised and sadly some people will die.
We cannot stop this virus but working together we can slow it in its tracks and push it back.
We can, as you have heard by now, flatten the curve. But only if everyone takes sustained action. Nothing less will do.
We all need to take steps to reduce close human contact. That is how the virus is spread. Not just at public gatherings or public places but also in our own homes places of leisure and work.
Large public gatherings are cancelled. All pubs and bars are shut.
We have also asked people to curtail or cancel social gatherings like parties, weddings and other celebrations. I know these choices won't be easy,but they are necessary.
More will be required in the coming weeks to reduce the spread of the virus. At all times we will be guided by, and take the expert advice, from our Public Health Emergency Team led by the Chief Medical Officer.
We will always put your life and your health ahead of any other concern. All resources that we have, financial and human, are being deployed to serve this great national effort.
We are watching what's happening around the world and will learn from the experience of other countries affected by Covid-19 before us – what works and what doesn't.
We know the best strategies focus on testing, contact tracing and social distancing. So, that is our strategy.
We will keep our essential services, supply chains and utilities operating.
Many of you want to know when this will be over.
The truth is we don't know yet.
This Emergency is likely to go on well beyond March 29th. It could go on for months into the summer so we need to be sensible in the approach we take.
We will deploy our full resources to ensure that essential shops, workplaces and public transport can continue to operate. People will still need to buy goods and avail of personal services in the weeks and months ahead.
However, to do so, we need your co-operation and that of business and industry to make social distancing workable. This may mean changing how you do your business… but we will work with you to find safe and creative ways to do this.
This may mean adjusted opening hours, staggering breaks, phone calls rather than meetings, and if possible working from home.
As you plan your life it will mean avoiding unnecessary journeys. Shopping online from local businesses and getting things delivered rather than physically going to the premises.
In short – we are asking people to come together as a nation by staying apart from each other.