Taoiseach says people must come together as a nation by staying apart

Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has used a special St Patrick’s Day address to tell the Irish people that the country “will get through” the coronavirus pandemic.

Leo Varadkar spoke about the COVID-19 crisis in a rare televised address this evening.

He said this St Patrick’s Day will see “no parties, no parades” and that it will be spoken about to future generations.

He said: “Let us say to them… When things were at their worst, we were at our best.

He said authorities expect 15,000 cases or more by the end of the month, and that we can only ‘flatten the curve’ of cases if everybody takes sustained action.

Mr Varadkar said: “We’re asking people to come together as a nation by staying apart from each other.”

He said authorities will soon ask elderly people or those with a long-term illness to stay at home for several weeks – calling the process ‘cocooning’.

However, he stressed that measure “will save many lives, particularly the lives of the most vulnerable”.

He paid tribute to all frontline service workers, as well as those working to keep the supply chain operating.

He described the current situation as a “calm before the storm… before the surge”.

He said: “Coronavirus is already having a deep impact on jobs and economic activity, and will continue to do so.

He pledged income supports to affected workers and other measures to protect those who need it.

He told the nation: “Everyone must show solidarity at this time of national sacrifice.

“I am confident that our economy will bounce back… [but] the bill will be enormous.

Elsewhere, he called for people to take breaks from the media and social media and to look after their mental well-being.

He concluded his address with a message to other countries, in particular those that have already been hit hard by the virus, such as China, Iran and Italy.

He stated: “Viruses pay no attention to border, race, nationality or gender – they are an enemy to all humanity.

Tonight’s statement was broadcast under a provision of the Broadcast Act, which allows ministers broadcasting time for announcements during a major emergency

The address followed a video conference between EU leaders in which they endorsed the European Commission’s proposals to limit the spread of the virus.

The measures include a temporary restriction on all non-essential travel to the EU for a period of 30 days.

In a statement, the Irish Government said the leader agreed “they would do whatever it takes to protect citizens in the face of an unprecedented crisis, and that they would continue work together on this”.