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BREAKING: Schools and colleges to close and limits on public gatherings amid Coronavirus outbreak

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced that schools, colleges and public facilities are to close until March 29 as massive attempts are being made to restrict the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

Any facilities effected will close from 6pm on Thursday.

Indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor gatherings of over 500 people have been banned which will lead to the cancellation and postponement of things like sports fixtures and concerts.

The Taoiseach also said people should work from home and “reduce social interactions as much as possible”.

The Taoiseach made the announcement from Washington where he had travelled for St Patrick’s Day.

The announcement comes a day after the first death from coronavirus was recorded in Ireland and the disease was upgraded to a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

As of Wednesday evening, there were 43 cases in Ireland.

US President Donald Trump earlier cancelled all flights from Europe (with the exception of Ireland and the UK) into USA.

The disease began in the Chinese city of Wuhan but has now spread to over 180 countries with thousands of deaths across the world.

Covid-19, the strain of Coronavirus, is spread through droplets caused by sneezing or coughing, or by touching a surface that someone has sneezed or coughed on within a particular time frame. It cannot be passed through your skin, and it’s thought that it’s unlikely to be airborne.

It may take up to 14 days for symptoms to show.

The best ways to protect yourself and others from the virus are to wash hands properly and often, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue/your sleeve when coughing and sneezing, and put used tissues in a bin and wash your hands.

Symptoms of Covid-19 include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Breathing difficulties.

Further resources:

  • The HSE: Official advice on the coronavirus in Ireland. This is being updated based on the number of confirmed cases and how the virus spreads in Ireland.
  • The Department of Foreign Affairs: Official advice on where to avoid travelling to. Also a resource for those who are abroad.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO): The UN agency on global public health publishes statements and daily situation reports based on the latest data.
  • European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC): The EU agency on the number of cases, deaths and how it’s spreading in Europe.
  • The Johns Hopkins University map: A heat map of the confirmed cases across the world.

A helpline for older people who are concerned about the coronavirus has been launched by Alone. The number is 0818 222 024, and it’s open Mon-Fri, 8am-8pm.

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. Husband of Emily, father of William, Lillian and John, he's happiest when he's telling stories