Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Monday evening that the rise in cases of coronavirus in Ireland “is inevitable”. The administrations in both parts of Ireland are looking to secure intensive care equipment ahead of an expected surge in the numbers of critically ill.
Mr Varadkar forecasted 15,000 cases in the 26 Counties by the end of March and said restrictions on public activity, including the closure of schools, colleges and large events, are set to be extended beyond March 29th.
An exponential increase in cases of coronavirus is now expected as the confirmed number in Ireland reached 275, with 223 in the South, predominately in Dublin, as well as 52 in the North. Mr Varadkar said the number of confirmed cases could rise by 30 per cent a day.
Among the items of equipment being sought to preserve life are ventilators.
Legislation to be published in Dublin on Tuesday is expected to place restrictions on pubs, clubs and other public gatherings. Scenes of crowded bars in Dublin’s Temple Bar at the weekend forced the government to move to shut bars in advance of St Patrick’s Day, normally the busiest day for social activity across Ireland. This year the day marks a grave danger for transmission of the disease, and there have been calls for students and others to stay away from St Patrick’s Day gatherings this year.
However, the government has so far resisted calls to instruct restaurants to close down.
Parents in the North are faced with a dilemma as unionist politicians have insisted on keeping schools open in line with a British agenda in support of a faster spread of the disease. However, there were signs overnight that a potential change of heart could be on the cards, as the Tory government in London appeared to grasp the scale of the looming crisis.
Further social distancing measures, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said ‘drastic action’ was needed and people should “avoid” pubs, clubs and theatres, stop all non-essential contact and travel, and work from home if they can.
Some schools in the North have already closed as parents voted with their feet to stay away. At least one school, St Dominic’s girls grammar school for Girls in west Belfast, was forced to close after one of its students tested positive for Covid-19. Other schools have announced closures because of suspected cases, while others have shut because of a lack of pupils or teachers.
Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill has said it is essential to follow a “common sense approach” in Ireland while Britain “continues to be an outlier” when it comes to tackling coronavirus.
“They are out of step with the rest of the world,” she said.
“The clear and unambiguous advice from the World Health Organisation today is that the best way to stop COVID-19 spreading is by testing and isolation.
“This, along with the British government’s announcement that ‘drastic action’ is needed, highlights the need for decisive action here.
“Expert clinicians from across Britain and elsewhere have added their voices to the calls for schools to be closed and mass gatherings to be halted.
“I once again repeat the call for schools to close to help contain the spread of the virus and to keep people safe.
“This is not merely a matter of timing; it is a matter of acting in a coordinated, responsible and rapid manner in order to save lives.
“It simply does not make sense to call for ‘drastic action’ and limit contact with others on one hand and then refusing to close schools.
“A number of schools are already taking practical and responsible steps to prepare for the orderly closure of schools later this week. Churches, sports organisations and businesses are also showing leadership on this issue.
“We live on a small island and it is vital we adopt an all-island approach immediately to tackling the COVID-19 coronavirus in order to keep the public safe.
“There is a responsibility on all political leaders north and south to do everything possible to protect the health and lives of everyone on this island.”