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School closures may be extended into April or May, Taoiseach tells Fine Gael TDs

Leo Varadkar also spoke with Prime Minister Boris Johnson this evening.
Mar 19th 2020, 8:52 PM 104,215 86

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has told a meeting of Fine Gael TDs that the closure of schools due to the Covid-19 outbreak may be extended into April or May.

The Taoiseach also spoke to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this evening, and the pair agreed on the need to keep in contact and align their actions – in so far as possible – on the crisis.

Today marks a week since Varadkar told the nation that schools had been ordered to close until 29 March as the State ramped up steps to try to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

However, with the number of cases expected to reach as high as 15,000 by the end of the month, it had been indicated that the measures brought in – which also include colleges and other public institutions – could be extended at some stage.

Public health authorities have said that social distancing is vital to preventing the spread of the virus and, following the closure of all pubs at the weekend, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said he is pleased with how the public were following the advice given.

Varadkar told a conference call of the party’s 35 TDs this evening that the number of cases of Covid-19 will rise further in the coming days. 

He told them all of the government was pulling together to fight the virus, with the benefits of these social distancing measures unlikely to be seen for five to ten days.

In his call with Johnson, the Taoiseach welcomed the decision to close schools and the pair also discussed the importance of close cooperation on the operation of the Common Travel Area.

This evening, the government passed emergency legislation aimed at taking action at halting the spread of the virus and received cross party support.

A temporary rent freeze has also been indicated, with over over 50,000 applications for the the Covid-19 unemployment benefit so far.

With reporting from Christina Finn

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