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2020 coronavirus pandemic in the Republic of Ireland

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2020 coronavirus pandemic in Ireland
COVID-19 cases
Number of confirmed cases by county
COVID-19 cases per million inhabitants in Ireland
Number of confirmed cases per 100k inhabitants by county
DiseaseCoronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Virus strainSevere acute respiratory syndrome
coronavirus 2
(SARS-CoV-2)
SourceBats or possibly pangolins[1][2][3]
LocationRepublic of Ireland
First outbreakNorthern Italy (local)
Wuhan, Hubei, China (global)
30°35′14″N 114°17′17″E / 30.58722°N 114.28806°E / 30.58722; 114.28806
Index caseDublin
Arrival date29 February 2020
(1 month and 5 days ago)
Confirmed cases3,849 (as of 2 April 2020)
Recovered27
Deaths
98 (as of 2 April 2020)
Official website
Gov.ie - Latest updates on COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Confirmation that the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic had spread to Ireland came on 29 February 2020.[4] Tony Holohan, the Chief Medical Officer for the Irish Department of Health, announced its arrival.[4] By 20 March, around three weeks later, it was present in all 26 counties.[5][6]

The pandemic's arrival affected many aspects of society, initially including the cancellation of St Patrick's Day parades and all festivals.[7][8][9][10] Taoiseach Leo Varadkar broke from a trip to Washington, D.C. – where he was meeting with President of the United States Donald Trump – to announce the closure of all schools, colleges, childcare and other public facilities until at least 29 March 2020.[11] These public health measures were subsequently expanded and extended until at least 19 April 2020.[12]

President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins signed into law an emergency bill – which had earlier passed through Dáil and Seanad Éireann – giving the state the power to detain people, restrict travel and keep people in their homes in order to restrict the pandemic.[13]

As of 2 April, there have been 3,849 confirmed cases and 98 deaths.[14]

Timeline

COVID-19 cases in the Republic of Ireland  ()
     Deaths        Recoveries        Active cases
Date
# of cases
# of deaths
2020-02-29
1(n.a.)
1(=)
2020-03-03
2(+100%)
2020-03-04
6(+200%)
2020-03-05
13(+117%)
2020-03-06
18(+38%)
2020-03-07
19(+6%)
2020-03-08
21(+11%)
2020-03-09
24(+14%)
2020-03-10
34(+42%)
2020-03-11
43(+26%) 1(n.a.)
2020-03-12
70(+63%) 1(=)
2020-03-13
90(+29%) 1(=)
2020-03-14
129(+43%) 2(+100%)
2020-03-15
169(+31%) 2(=)
2020-03-16
223(+32%) 2(=)
2020-03-17
292(+31%) 2(=)
2020-03-18
366(+25%) 2(=)
2020-03-19
557(+52%) 3(+50%)
2020-03-20
683(+23%) 3(=)
2020-03-21
785(+15%) 3(=)
2020-03-22
906(+15%) 4(+33%)
2020-03-23
1,125(+24%) 6(+50%)
2020-03-24
1,329(+18%) 7(+17%)
2020-03-25
1,564(+18%) 9(+29%)
2020-03-26
1,819(+16%) 19(+111%)
2020-03-27
2,121(+17%) 22(+16%)
2020-03-28
2,415(+14%) 36(+64%)
2020-03-29
2,615(+8%) 46(+28%)
2020-03-30
2,910(+11%) 54(+17%)
2020-03-31
3,235(+11%) 71(+31%)
2020-04-01
3,447(+7%) 85(+20%)
2020-04-02
3,849(+12%) 98(+15%)
Sources: various news sources and state health department websites. See Timeline Table and Timeline narrative for sources.

Containment Phase: 29 February–12 March

In late February, the Department of Health stated that Ireland was in the Containment Phase of its strategy against the virus, though media briefings with such figures as Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan and Cillian de GascunUCD-based Director of the National Reference Laboratory – were underway.[15] Three days later, on 29 February, the first confirmed case was announced involving a male student from the east of the country, who had arrived there from Northern Italy.[16][17] Authorities shut a secondary school linked to the case, Scoil Chaitríona in Glasnevin, for two weeks as a precautionary measure.[16][18] The State did not name the school involved, but – shortly afterwards – the Irish Examiner's Political Editor, Daniel McConnell, tweeted a copy of the letter it had sent to parents informing them it would close.[19]

On 3 March, a second case was confirmed of a female in the east of the country who had been to Northern Italy.[20] She had had no contact with the first case.

On 4 March, four more cases were confirmed, two females and two males in the west of the country who travelled from northern Italy, bringing the total to six.[21]

On 5 March, seven more cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 13.[22] Four of the cases were related to travel from Northern Italy—four males from the east of the country—one of these four cases was connected to Trinity College Dublin.[23] Two of the seven cases were associated with close contact with a confirmed case—two females in the west of the country. One of the seven cases was a male in the south of the country who had no history of travel abroad.[24]

On 6 March, it was reported that more than 60 staff at Cork University Hospital would have to self-isolate following a case of community transmission of COVID-19 at the hospital.[25] The same day brought confirmation of five more cases, bringing the total in the country at that time to 18.[26]

On 7 March, one more case was confirmed bringing the total to 19.[27] On 8 March, two more cases were confirmed bringing the total to 21.[28] On 9 March, three more cases were confirmed bringing the total to 24.[29] On 10 March, ten more cases were confirmed bringing the total to 34.[30]

On 11 March, an elderly patient in Naas General Hospital in County Kildare (south-west of the country's capital city, Dublin) became Ireland's first fatality from the virus; nine new cases were announced.[31] This brought confirmed cases to 43. Cork University Hospital discharged a patient who had been admitted for coronavirus disease after they made a full recovery.[32]

Delay Phase: 12–27 March

On 12 March, 27 new cases were confirmed, bringing the total cases in the country to 70.[33] In response to the increase of cases, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the closure of all schools, colleges and childcare facilities until 29 March.[11] The announcement, which came one day after the World Health Organization formally declared that the outbreak was pandemic, also marked Ireland's movement from the Containment Phase in its strategy to combat the spread of the virus (a strategy which the Department of the Taoiseach had reaffirmed just three days earlier) towards the Delay Phase.[34][35]

On 13 March, 20 new cases were confirmed, bringing the total cases in the country to 90.[36] On 14 March, 39 new cases were confirmed and another death announced of a man in the East of the country with underlying medical conditions. This brought the total cases to 129, with 2 deaths in total.[37]

On 15 March, 40 new cases were confirmed. The total number of cases stood at 169 with 2 deaths.[38] Four patients were discharged from University Hospital Limerick.[39] The Government ordered bars and public houses to close and advised against house parties.[40]

On 16 March, 54 new cases were confirmed. The total number of cases stood at 223 with 2 deaths.[41] On 17 March, 69 new cases were confirmed, bringing total cases in the country to 292 with 2 deaths[42]

On 18 March, 74 new cases were confirmed, bringing total cases in the country to 366 with 2 deaths.[43] More detailed information about hospital statistics, age range affected, how COVID-19 was spreading, healthcare workers and cases by county was published by the National Public Health Emergency Team starting on this day. It showed that the virus was present in 23 of the 26 counties, with Laois, Leitrim and Monaghan the only three yet to record a case.[44]

On 19 March, 191 new cases were confirmed, bringing total to 557. 1 new death was recorded, bringing the total to 3 deaths.[45][46] The woman died in an isolation ward in St Vincent's Hospital.[47][48] Her daughter later spoke to the media and urged the public to protect themselves from the virus.[49][50][51]

On 20 March, 126 new cases were reported, bringing the total to 683. It was also confirmed that the virus had since infected Laois and Leitrim, leaving Monaghan as the last of the 26 counties.[52] On 21 March, 102 new cases were reported, bringing the total to 785.[53]

On 22 March, 121 new cases were announced, bringing the total to 906. A fourth death was also announced, bringing the total number of deaths to 4.[54] The man, who died at the Mater Hospital, was musical director of a choir in Dublin and former Head of Vocal Studies at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.[55][56]

On 23 March, a further 219 cases and 2 more deaths were announced, bringing the totals to 1,125 cases and 6 deaths.[57] Of those then diagnosed, 208 were health care workers.[58] On 24 March, a further 204 cases and one more death were announced, bringing the total number of cases to 1,329 and 7 deaths.[59] On 25 March, 235 cases were confirmed, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1,564. Two deaths also occurred, bringing the total number of deaths to 9.[60] On 26 March, 255 cases and 10 deaths were confirmed, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1,819, and the total number of deaths to 19, more than double the previous day's total.[61] At this point, deaths began to accelerate rapidly.

Stay at Home phase: 27 March–present

On 27 March, 302 new cases as well as 3 new deaths brought the total number of confirmed cases and deaths to 2,121 and 22, respectively.[62] Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced a series of measures which he summed up as: "Stay at Home" (subject to certain exemptions).[63] Merrion Street described it as "a more intensive phase in our response to Covid-19".[64] The measures, which coincided with an escalating death toll, were also a response to increased reliance on intensive care units (ICUs) to treat critically-ill patients, and an attempt to lower this number before capacity was reached.[65]

On 28 March, 294 new cases, as well as 14 new deaths, brought the total number of confirmed cases and deaths to 2,415 and 36, respectively.[66]

On 29 March, 200 cases and 10 deaths were reported, bringing the total number of confirmed cases and deaths to 2,615 and 46 respectively.[67]

On 30 March, 295 cases and 8 deaths were reported, bringing the total number of confirmed cases and deaths to 2,910 and 54 respectively.[68]

On 31 March, 325 cases and 17 deaths were reported, bringing the total number of confirmed cases and deaths to 3,235 and 71 respectively.[69]

On 1 April, an additional 212 cases and 14 deaths were reported, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 3,447, and the total number of deaths to 85.[70] It was also announced that Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan, who displayed signs of illness during the previous evening's news conference, had entered hospital for non-COVID reasons; Ronan Glynn (Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Head of the Department of Health's Health Protection Unit) took charge.[71]

On 2 April, a further 402 cases and 13 deaths were announced, bringing the totals to 3,849 cases and 98 deaths.[14]

Testing

Many Gaelic games stadiums were repurposed as drive-through COVID-19 testing centres. These included Croke Park in Dublin;[72] Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork;[73] Nowlan Park in Kilkenny;[74] Gaelic Grounds in Limerick;[75] MacHale Park in Castlebar;[76][77] Breffni Park in Cavan;[78] O'Donnell Park in Letterkenny.[79]

Other drive through testing centres included St Vincent's in Athlone;[80] Castlebar Leisure Complex in County Mayo;[81] the disused St Conal's Hospital in Letterkenny;[82] St Loman's Hospital in Mullingar;[83] the Clarion Road in Sligo;[84] Tallaght Stadium (the home ground of Shamrock Rovers Football Club) in Tallaght;[85][86][87] a prefabricated HSE-owned building in Waterford near Cherrymount in Ballytruckle, which had been used by St Martin's Special School.[88]

The military response to the pandemic, which included provision of naval vessels to support onshore testing in Irish cities, was known as Operation Fortitude and involved such ships as Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw and Niamh (Dublin), Eithne (Cork) and William Butler Yeats (Galway).[89][90][91][92][93][94]

As of 9 March 2020, 1,784 people had been tested.[95]

As of 17 March, 6,636 people had been tested.[96]

As of 21 March, over 10,000 people had been tested.[97]

As of 23 March, 17,992 tests had been carried out.[98]

As of 23 March, around 40,000 people were waiting to be tested and the average wait time was 4 to 5 days. Minister for Health Simon Harris said that priority testing of only healthcare workers might have to be implemented.[99]

On 25 March – to prioritise testing of healthcare workers – the threshold for requesting a COVID-19 test was narrowed. From then a person requesting a COVID-19 test had to: (i) be a healthcare worker; OR (ii) present with a fever and at least one other COVID-19 symptom.[60]

As of 30 March, 30,213 tests had been carried out.[100]

Impact

Economy

On 10 March – following the Italian government's decision to lockdown the country in a bid to decelerate the rapid spread of the virus – Ryanair announced it would suspend all flights to, from and within Italy until 8 April, while Aer Lingus did likewise – but with 3 April as its intended end date.[101]

Initially, pubs and bars – alongside restaurants and cinemas – were permitted to remain open if they respected the social distancing measures introduced on 12 March. However, difficulties in maintaining this became clear over the weekend before Saint Patrick's Day. On 14 March, Minster for Health Simon Harris announced on Twitter: "Not far from here, nurses & doctors are working to prepare for the impact of a global pandemic. Everyone is working 24/7. This is an insult to their efforts", alongside one video circulating of a in Temple Bar pub filled with people singing an extract from "Sweet Caroline", i.e. "Hands, touching hands... Reaching out, touching me, touching you".[102][103] Harris acted swiftly, and – by the following morning – the Vintners' Federation of Ireland, the Licensed Vintners Association and the Irish government issued a joint call for all bars and pubs to close from midnight until – at minimum – 29 March. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, a qualified medical doctor, advised on Twitter: "People who have been out this weekend should avoid physical contact with seniors or people with chronic diseases. You could make them very, very sick". Varadkar also used Twitter to reiterate his stance against mass gatherings of more than 100 people and stated his intention to "seek enforcement powers from Dáil/Seanad" if necessary, so as to compel delinquent pubs and bars to shut. The decision did not affect restaurants and cinemas – provided they maintained social distancing – though the Chief Executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Adrian Cummins, called for a shutdown of the country's restaurant industry.[104][105][106] Pubs continued to open though. Niall Collins stated that pubs in Limerick were opening after the officla shutdown had come into effect.[107]

Restaurants, however, decided to shut their doors on their own initiative. On 22 March, it was announced that all McDonald's outlets in Ireland and the United Kingdom would be closed from 7pm on 23 March.[108][109] The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) outlined the impact this would have on Irish beef farmers, as McDonald's is their biggest customer, dealing with 18,000 Irish farms and using Irish beef in one fifth of its burgers across Europe.[110] The day after the McDonald's announcement, coffeehouse chain Costa Coffee and restaurant franchise Subway both announced they would shut their Irish outlets, as did doughnut company Krispy Kreme do regarding its one Irish outlet in Dublin. The Irish fast food restaurant chain Supermac's announced the same day as the Costa and Subway closures that it would shut all its restaurants by the evening of 26 March; it intended the delay to allow emergency services using its facilities time to plan where they would eat, but did say it would shut its seating areas that night.[111]

Major departments stores shut, including McElhinney's on Sunday 13 March,[112] while Brown Thomas and Arnotts closed on the evening of 18 March.[113] The clothing retailer Penneys (which trades abroad as Primark) followed suit the same evening.[114][115]

By mid-March, nearly 3% of the population – 140,000 people (including 70,000 restaurant staff, 50,000 pub and bar staff and about 20,000 créche and childcare workers) – had lost their jobs due to restrictions brought in to delay the virus's spread.[116] The numbers of people in normally busy Dublin areas such as Grafton Street dropped by percentages in the sixties, seventies and eighties.[117][118]

On 16 March, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty announced a Pandemic Unemployment Payment, available for six weeks.[119] On 19 March, Doherty announced that all welfare would be distributed each fortnight instead of the traditional weekly, so as to limit the amount of people gathering in post offices.[120]

On 18 March, banks – together with Minister of Finance Paschal Donohoe – announced a range of measures, including providing working capital, payment breaks and deferred court proceedings.[121]

Education

Initially, some schools around the country were closed and pupils were instructed to self-isolate.[122][123] Trinity College Dublin cancelled lectures and moved to online delivery.[124]

On 12 March, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar – speaking from Washington, D.C. where he was meeting U.S. President Donald Trump – announced the closure of all schools, colleges and childcare facilities across Ireland until at least 29 March.[11]

On 19 March, Minister for Education Joe McHugh announced the cancellation of Leaving and Junior Cert oral and practical exams, with all students given top marks.[125]

On 21 March, State broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) announced that it would begin showing "school" live on television.[126] The broadcasts began on Monday 30 March, aimed at children attending 1st–6th class of primary school (i.e. roughly 6–12 years of age).[127]

On 24 March, Minister for Education Joe McHugh confirmed that schools would not be reopening on 30 March as had been the official deadline until then.[128][129]

On 2 April, the Department of Education deferred the introduction of its "School Inclusion Model" for the allocation of Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) in schools that had been scheduled for September 2020, citing cancellations of meetings due to COVID-19 and the absence of therapists called to assist the Health Service Executive (HSE) in its battle against the pandemic.[130] Also on 2 April, RTÉ announced it would – on weekend mornings – televise those plays of William Shakespeare on the Junior and Leaving Certificate syllabi, to cater for English students at secondary school who had been prevented from attending a live theatre performance ahead of their exam.[131]

Health

The Mater Hospital in Dublin announced on 6 March that all visitors were banned, with the exception of "those who are visiting patients in critical care, vulnerable young adults, psychiatric patients or those whose loved ones are receiving end of life care" (though all children were barred).[132]

Also on 6 March, six hospitals in the province of MunsterUniversity Hospital Limerick, University Maternity Hospital Limerick, Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital, St John's Hospital and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital – announced visitors were banned and that they would be cancelling all elective surgeries and outpatient appointments (with exceptions in such cases as caesarean sections, chemotherapy and dialysis) for the following Monday and Tuesday. This announcement came after the attendance of a patient at University Hospital Limerick's emergency department two days earlier, who was later confirmed as Covid-19 positive, leading staff to self-isolate and the emergency department to be closed for three hours so that it could be deep cleaned.[133]

And again on 6 March – this time in Cork University Hospital, also in Munster – more than 60 members of staff self-isolated after a case of COVID-19 emerged there.[134]

Some nursing homes and hospitals placed stricter visitor restrictions in the hope of stopping the spread of the virus.[135][136][137]

A company making surgical face masks, for the global and local market, increased its production.[138]

Listoke Distillery in Drogheda (east of Ireland, north of Dublin) was repurposed to produce hand sanitiser.[139][140]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) began stocking up on ventilators in anticipation of a possible surge in respiratory distress cases from coronavirus.[141]

Non-urgent hospital appointments and non-emergency surgery was cancelled in-order to allow hospitals to cope with the anticipated rise in COVID-19 cases.[142]

On 17 March, Minister of Health Simon Harris announced free consultations for COVID-19 testing and a recruitment drive to hire more healthcare workers including those retired and working part-time.[143]

On 24 March, it was announced that the state would take control of all private hospital facilities for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.[144]

On 29 March, the HSE unveiled new facilities at Dublin's Citywest hotel; this had a dual purpose, for self-isolation of individuals where needed and as an overflow stepdown facility for patients from hospitals not yet able to go back home.[145] The first patients began to arrive on 1 April.[146]

Media

The Monday night current affairs television series Claire Byrne Live on 9 March 2020 was filmed with a reduced studio audience as an effort at social distancing; seven days later, on 16 March 2020, there was no studio audience at all and presenter Claire Byrne conducted interviews with guests – such as Minister for Health Simon Harris – live from her garden shed, as she had been advised to self-isolate.[147] On 23 March, ahead of her second week broadcasting to the nation from her shed, Byrne confirmed she had tested positive for Covid-19; the result had come as a shock to her as she had not had a temperature and assumed she had caught the common cold – though, as the week went on, her symptoms worsened, she had some difficulty breathing and experienced tiredness.[148] Byrne's diagnosis had been hinted at two days earlier when a then unnamed RTÉ staff member was reported to be COVID-19 positive.[149]

On 15 March 2020, The Irish Times announced that its building on Tara Street in Dublin would close immediately as a staff member had just been confirmed to have tested COVID-19 positive, though the paper remained in print and its website continued to be updated.[150]

On Wednesday 18 March, Newstalk radio presenter and former medical doctor Ciara Kelly announced that she had tested COVID-19 positive, though she was no longer practising, had taken precautions and had not been abroad.[151] She had continued to present the Monday and Tuesday editions of her programme, Lunchtime Live, from the hot press (a type of Irish cupboard) in her home, and Mick Heaney of The Irish Times described her Wednesday programme as "a compelling show, remarkably so considering it was hosted by an ill woman sitting in an airing cupboard".[152]

On 20 March, Celtic Media Group announced it would make staff temporarily redundant.[153]

Also on 20 March, Ryan Tubridy received a "mock" COVID-19 test on The Late Late Show.[154] Five days later, Tubridy did not turn up for his morning radio show, citing a "persistent cough"; Oliver Callan deputised.[155] Two days later, RTÉ announced that Miriam O'Callaghan would present that evening's edition of The Late Late Show, the first time in the programme's 58-year history that the role fell to a woman, the first time since his father died in 2013 that Tubridy missed a programme and the first time since Frank Hall's shortlived stint in the mid-1960s that a regular host had missed two programmes overall.[156][157][158][159] On Monday 30 March, Tubridy again did not turn up for his radio show, with Callan continuing to cover for him; later that day, Tubridy announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.[160][161] On Thursday 3 April, RTÉ confirmed O'Callaghan would again present The Late Late Show, the first time in programme history that the regular host missed two consecutive episodes.[162][163]

The National Lottery cancelled its weekly game show Winning Streak and withdrew scratchcards from shops.[164] Filming of Fair City ceased, and episodes shown twice weekly instead of the normal four.[165] TG4, deprived of its live Gaelic games coverage, aired past matches instead.[166]

COVID-related offences

In the wake of fake news and rumours circulating online – including claims that a military-enforced "status red lockdown" would be enforced from 11:00 on Monday 16 March – ministers and the head of the Defence Forces made calls for people to be more responsible with the information they shared online and to only trust reputable sources.[167][168]

On 21 March, gardaí in Longford were called to a house where a 21st birthday party was underway to disperse dozens of young people who gathered in violation of social distancing.[169]

Assaults of coughing and spitting were rife. An elderly couple in County Kildare said they were afraid to attend daily Mass after receiving the coughs of an unknown man into their faces.[170][171] On 23 March, a man appeared at Blanchardstown Hospital, saying he had COVID-19 symptoms and wanted to be tested. He proceeded to either spit or cough at a nurse, who was then forced into self-isolation – it later emerged that her attacker was COVID-19 positive.[172][173][174] Also on 23 March, a nurse who had just left night duty and gone jogging in Clontarf reported that herself and an elderly couple with walking frame and wheelchair were surrounded by and coughed at by a gang of more than fifteen teenagers on bicycles.[175][176][177][178] Gardaí ordered 16,000 spit hoods (to cover the face of suspects inclined towards these acts), and warned the public that anyone caught would be charged with assault.[179][180] On 24 March, Minister for Health Simon Harris was approached near Government Buildings by a man and a woman who coughed into his face, his assailants then running off laughing.[181][182] On 25 March, a male teenager was arrested in Dungarvan, County Waterford, as part of an investigation into those deliberately coughing onto others.[183] On 26 March, bail was refused in the case of a father and son filmed spitting on two gardaí on duty in the centre of the capital city, Dublin – with the virus cited in court as an objection.[184][185]

A burglary on the George Bernard Shaw, docked at Sir John Rogerson's Quay along the River Liffey in Dublin to offer assistance to the Health Service Executive, led to the arrest of a man and a prompt appearance before court.[186][187]

Politics

On 8 February, a general election took place in Ireland, before the outbreak had been declared a pandemic or reached Europe. Talks on government formation began soon afterwards and continued as the first case was confirmed in Ireland.

On 20 February, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar offered his resignation to President Michael D. Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin, remaining, however, as Taoiseach in a caretaker capacity until the formation of a new government.[188] President of Sinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald was the first high-profile politician affected by the spread of COVID-19, with her party cancelling events and her family entering self-isolation for a period, after McDonald confirmed on 2 March that her children attended the same school as the student with the first recorded case of COVID-19 in Ireland.[189] While in Washington ahead of Saint Patrick's Day, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced measures intended to stop COVID-19 spreading, including the closure of all schools, universities and childcare facilities from the following day, as well as the closure of all cultural institutions and the cancellation of "all indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor mass gatherings of more than 500 people".[190]

A Cabinet Sub-Committee on Covid-19 was estasblished.[191][192][193]

On 16 March, Thomas Pringle, an independent TD representing the Donegal constituency, entered isolation due to previous contact with someone in Dublin and the high risk to his own personal health.[194][195] After returning home earlier than anticipated from his visit to the United States, the Taoiseach addressed the nation on Saint Patrick's Night during A Ministerial Broadcast by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, introducing television viewers to the concept of "cocooning", i.e. "At a certain point… we will advise the elderly and people who have a long-term illness to stay at home for several weeks".[196][197][198] The speech, which Varadkar made under Section 112 of the Broadcast Act, was the most watched television event in Irish history, surpassing the previous record held by The Late Late Toy Show by an additional total of about 25% and was widely distributed globally.[199][200] It was also plagiarised by Peter Bellew, the chief operating officer at British low-cost airline group EasyJet.[201]

On 18 March, Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, the independent MEP representing the Midlands–North-West constituency, announced that he and his family would begin self-isolating after his daughter exhibited symptoms of COVID-19.[202]

On 19 March, Dáil Éireann reconvened under social distancing measures to pass emergency legislation. At the written request of Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, the sitting was limited to 48 TDs (11 each representing Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin, four Greens, three members of the Regional Group and two members of all other parties and groups). The legislation – Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020 – passed all stages, and, following requests by opposition TDs, included a sunset provision for review in November.[203] During the sitting, Eamon Ryan called on the Irish to grow lettuce on their window sills: "Let's get every south facing window sill in this country and lets plant our seeds in the next week so that if there is any supply crisis in food in two or three months time when this really hits hard, we'll have our salads ready to go".[204]

On 19 March, it was reported that Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy had been in self-isolation for the past week after returning from a visit abroad to see family. Murphy had set off before travel advice against doing so was issued and – while he had "not been in direct physical contact with any colleagues" – he, nevertheless, was well enough to continue his work remotely.[205]

On 20 March, Seanad Éireann – also sitting in reduced numbers – passed the legislation after a three-hour debate.[206] President Higgins wrote the legislation into law later that day, giving the state the power to detain people, restrict travel and keep people in their homes in order to restrict the pandemic.[13]

On 23 March, Tánaiste Simon Coveney revealed he had tested negative for COVID-19. He underwent the test after being contact traced via the positive result of Claire Byrne, whom he had sat beside on live television less than two weeks previously.[207] It was believed that Coveney was the first member of the Varadkar cabinet to be tested for the virus.[208]

On 24 March, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced from Government Buildings the extension of all existing measures until 19 April – as well as stricter measures, among which were: the limiting of social gatherings to four people (unless members of the same household); the shutting of all non-essential retail outlets still open – effective from midnight – bringing an official end to hairdressing, theatres, gyms, leisure centres, betting offices, marts and other market places, casinos and bingo halls, playgrounds, holiday caravan parks, organised indoor and outdoor social events of any kind, including all sport (some of which, such as horse racing, was then still being held behind closed doors); the limitation of cafes and restaurants to takeaway and delivery services. Varadkar stopped short of calling it a "lockdown", the term used in other countries.[209][210][211][212][213]

At its next sitting – on 26 March – the Dáil passed further emergency legislation introduced due to the virus, again with deliberately limited numbers attending, and without a vote.[214] President of Sinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald was absent after announcing on Twitter that she had awoken with a "head cold" and that Pearse Doherty would lead the party instead.[215][216]

On the evening of Friday 27 March, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gave a live televised speech to the nation during which he announced further restrictions on public activity.[217][218] He said that all people must stay at home until 12 April (Easter Sunday) from the following midnight[219] with the following exemptions: to travel to and from work (essential work only);[219] shopping for food or household goods;[219] to attend medical appointments or collect medicines or related products;[219] for vital family reasons, such as caring for a relative;[219] to take brief exercise within 2 km of home;[219]; for farming purposes, such as food production or care of animals.[219] All public or private gatherings of any number of people outside a residence were prohibited.[219] More non-essential shops and serviceswere shut, adult community education centres and local community centres were shut.[219] All non-essential surgery, health procedures and other non-essential health services was postponed.[219] All visits to hospitals, other residential healthcare facilities and prisons would cease, with specific exemptions on compassionate grounds.[219] Shielding, or cocooning, of those over 70 years of age, or who are in specific categories of vulnerable people, was introduced.[219] Minister for Transport Shane Ross confirmed that, following Varadkar's announcement of 28 March, driving tests and NCTs would be suspended, stating that it was "critical that we give drivers as well as operators of commercial vehicles peace of mind in relation to the status of their licence, learner permit, NCT certificate or certificate of roadworthiness, especially if it has expired or is likely to expire during the period of the COVID-19 health crisis".[220]

The Dáil met again – one week after its previous sitting – on 2 April again with deliberately limited numbers, this time augmented by a Labour Party boycott – while Mary Lou McDonald's absence continued (announced the previous day) due to her being "under the weather".[221][222]

Religion

The Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference issued a statement on 12 March, following the Taoiseach's Washington announcement on limitations to public gatherings. Among the pastoral directions given were reductions in the amount of people attending congregations to the less than 100 that Varadkar had advised. Thus, Irish Catholics were permitted to forgo the obligation "to physically attend Sunday Mass", particularly if they were elderly or had underlying health conditions known to be worsened by infection with the virus. Bishops advised that members of the congregation should be informed of how they might "participate in Mass via local radio and online".[223] Holy water fonts would be emptied; hand sanitiser made available at each entrance of the church; the sign of peace expressed preferably through other means than the tradition of hand shaking; the Eucharist to be taken in the hand and not the mouth; only one person to drink from the chalice; priests to avail of cotton buds or surgical gloves while engaged in the anointing of the sick; priests to make the sign of the cross over the baby during baptism without touching the child's head; no shaking the hands of the bereaved during funerals.[224]

RTÉ Television started showing weekday morning Mass from St Eunan's Cathedral in Letterkenny.[225]

Sport

Countless sporting events were affected by the arrival of the virus. Following the Taoiseach's 12 March announcement from Washington, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and Football Association of Ireland (FAI) all immediately announced the two-week suspension of games.[226]

On 12 March, the 2019–20 Pro14 was suspended indefinitely.[227] Ireland's final two Six Nations rugby fixtures against Italy and France were postponed.[228][229] The IRFU postponed the Italy game, scheduled for 7 March, on 26 February. after it met with Minister for Health Simon Harris for an hour at the Department of Health.[230] In spite of this, thousands of Italian fans were permitted to fly into Dublin on the weekend of the game were not checked at Dublin Airport for signs of the disease.[231][232][233]

On 20 March, the IRFU announced pay deferrals of between 10% and 50% for staff, including each of its professional players.[234]

On 13 March, Minister for Health Simon Harris said people returning from Spain or Italy would have to "not quite self-isolate" but "restrict their movements" upon returning to Ireland; this affected Tipperary, the reigning All-Ireland Hurling Champions, who had flown in advance to the Costa Blanca in Spain for a training camp.[235][236] On 15 March, footballer Dr Jack McCaffrey issued a video message thanking the public for their co-operation, which was relayed by Dublin GAA and media outlets – McCaffrey noting that he had shaven his beard to protect his patients.[237] On 17 March, the GAA confirmed that the opening fixture of the 2020 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, due to have taken place at Gaelic Park in The Bronx on 3 May, had been postponed.[238] Also that day, Michael Carton, the former Dublin hurler who won the 2013 Leinster Senior Hurling Championship, revealed he had been in hospital since the previous weekend after testing positive for COVID-19.[239] On 18 March, the GAA confirmed that its Féile na Gael 2020 hurling and camogie event (jointly to have been hosted by Dublin, Kildare and Meath in early June), Féile na nÓg National football tournaments (jointly to have been hosted by Donegal, Derry, and Tyrone in late June), the Celtic Challenge under-17 hurling development competition and every event intended to have involved academy squads, would be cancelled in 2020 as a result of the damage done by the virus to its other competitions.[240]

On 10 March, Slovakia suspended all sports events for two weeks, 17 days before the Republic of Ireland were due to play the country's football team in Bratislava in their UEFA Euro 2020 play-off.[241] However, on 17 March, the entire tournament – among which were four games scheduled for Ireland – was postponed until 2021 to allow time for the enormous backlog of club fixtures caused by the virus across the continent to be played.[242][243] On the night of 15 March, League of Ireland club Drogheda United sent a letter to all its staff and players informing them it would cease paying them.[244] On 19 March, Sligo Rovers announced it would temporarily make all its staff and players redundant, having already assisted those from abroad in returning home.[245] On 21 March, Cork City announced it would stop paying its players and staff.[246][247]

By mid-March Ireland had become the only major horse racing country in Europe where the sport continued, albeit strictly regulated and behind closed doors.[248] All racing ceased from 24 March, affecting the Irish Grand National which had been scheduled for mid-April.[249] Irish players based in the Australian Football League (AFL), including Conor McKenna, returned home following the suspension of play there.[250][251][252]

Other

Aer Lingus began flying to Beijing in late March 2020 to collect personal protective equipment for Irish healthcare workers[253]

Panic buying of hand sanitisers and face masks ensued as fear of the pandemic spread.[254] Supermarkets introduced social distancing measures and additional cleaning and disinfecting within stores.[255] SuperValu announced Plexiglass would be distributed to its outlets nationwide; even small shops had Perspex protective screens placed in front of their cashier desks.[256]

St Patrick's Day parades were called off due to concerns that they would be a threat to public health.[7][8][9][10]

The inhabitants of Arranmore Island, off the coast of County Donegal, entered self-isolation and asked visitors to keep away.[257][258]

On 11 March, Highland Radio announced the postponement of a concert with Daniel O'Donnell, which had been scheduled for 18 March.[259]

On 20 March, it was announced that the 2020 Fleadh Cheoil, due to have taken place in Mullingar in August, would be cancelled.[260] NME asked Dublin pop band The Coronas, while touring in Dubai, if they would change their name.[261][262]

An Post indefinitely postponed its price increase on stamps (due to have started on 18 March), announced earlier opening hours on Fridays for OAPs to get their pensions and introduced measures to limit contact between customers and staff, including pausing the need for recipients of parcels to provide a signature.[263] The postal service provider also distributed two free postcards to each household, for those wishing to contact others elsewhere in the country.[264] Delayed deliveries of parcels and letters, and a request for children to be kept away as well.[265]

Telecommunications company eir indefinitely postponed its intended introduction on 31 March of subscription charges for the eircom.net email service.[266][267]

On 20 March, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan announced that immigration permissions set to expire from 20 March to 20 May would be granted a two-month extension.[268] He also announced the temporary release of prisoners.[269] The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service on Dublin's Burgh Quay shut due to the virus and applications instead went online.[270]

An Garda Síochána (Irish police) announced differences to the way its shifts would operate to allow for increased presence of its officers in public, that hundreds of student gardaí would be sworn in to the force earlier than would otherwise have been the case and that more than 200 private hire cars would be deployed to assist vulnerable citizens in rural areas after being branded with the Garda sign and crest. In addition, a supply of masks would be maintained to distribute within the prison system if inmates showed symptoms of the virus.[271] It also set up a national Covid-19 unit located at its Phoenix Park headquarters.[272]

On 22 March, Wicklow County Council closed all car parks and facilities in Glendalough after crowds gathered at food stalls there the previous day.[273]

On 22 March, Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney announced the planned repatriation, by charter flight, of Irish citizens from Peru.[274] On 30 March, the repatriation flight touched down at Dublin airport.[275]


Statistics

  Total Confirmed Cases.
  Total healthcare worker confirmed cases.
  Total Deaths.
  Total number hospitalised.
  Total number admitted to ICU.

Cases

Confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection cases in Ireland ()

Case no. Date announced Status Origin type Origin Location Treatment facility Sex Age
1[16] 29 February 2020 Unknown Travel-related Northern Italy Dublin, Glasnevin Mater Hospital Male Student
2[20] 3 March 2020 Unknown Travel-related Northern Italy East of country Unknown Female Unknown
3[21] 4 March 2020 Recovered on 16 March[39] Travel-related Northern Italy West of country University Hospital Limerick Female Unknown
4[21] 4 March 2020 Recovered on 16 March[39] Travel-related Northern Italy West of country University Hospital Limerick Female Unknown
5[21] 4 March 2020 Recovered on 16 March[39] Travel-related Northern Italy West of country University Hospital Limerick Male Unknown
6[21] 4 March 2020 Recovered on 16 March[39] - Healthcare worker Travel-related Northern Italy West of country University Hospital Limerick Male Unknown
7[24] 5 March 2020 Unknown - Healthcare worker Community-related Unknown South of country - Cork Cork University Hospital Male Unknown
8–11[24] 5 March 2020 Unknown Travel-related Northern Italy East of country Unknown Male Unknown
12–13[24] 5 March 2020 Unknown Person-to-person spread Case(s) in West of country West of country Unknown Female Unknown
14[26] 6 March 2020 Unknown Travel-related Northern Italy East of country Unknown Male Unknown
15[26] 6 March 2020 Unknown Person-to-person spread Case(s) in West of country West of country Unknown Female Unknown
16[26] 6 March 2020 Unknown Person-to-person spread Case 7 South of country Unknown Female Unknown
17[26] 6 March 2020 Unknown Travel-related Unknown South of country Unknown Male Unknown
18[26] 6 March 2020 Unknown Travel-related Northern Italy South of country Unknown Female Unknown
19[27] 7 March 2020 Unknown Travel-related Northern Italy East of country Unknown Male Unknown
20[28] 8 March 2020 Unknown Community-related Ireland East of country Unknown Female Unknown
21[28] 8 March 2020 Intensive care unit Community-related Ireland South of country - Cork Bon Secours Hospital, Cork Male Unknown
22[29] 9 March 2020 Unknown Person-to-person spread Ireland South of country Unknown Female Unknown
23[29] 9 March 2020 Unknown Person-to-person spread Ireland West of country Unknown Female Unknown
24[29] 9 March 2020 Unknown - Healthcare worker Person-to-person spread Ireland South of country Unknown Female Unknown
25[30] 10 March 2020 Unknown - Healthcare worker Person-to-person spread Ireland South of country Unknown Male Unknown
26[30] 10 March 2020 Unknown - Healthcare worker Person-to-person spread Ireland East of country Unknown Female Unknown
27-29[30] 10 March 2020 Unknown Travel-related Travel from affected area South of country Unknown Male Unknown
30[30] 10 March 2020 Unknown Person-to-person spread Ireland West of country Unknown Male Unknown
31[30] 10 March 2020 Unknown Person-to-person spread Ireland West of country Unknown Female Unknown
32[30] 10 March 2020 Unknown Person-to-person spread Ireland South of country Unknown Female Unknown
33[30] 10 March 2020 Unknown Travel-related Travel from affected area East of country Unknown Male Unknown
34[30] 10 March 2020 Unknown Travel-related Travel from affected area East of country Unknown Female Unknown
35[31] 11 March 2020 Unknown Person-to-person spread Unknown South of country University Hospital Waterford Male Unknown
36-38[31] 11 March 2020 Unknown Travel-related Unknown South of country Unknown Male Unknown
39[31] 11 March 2020 Unknown Person-to-person spread Ireland South of country Unknown Female Unknown
40[31] 11 March 2020 Unknown Person-to-person spread Ireland South of country Unknown Male Unknown
41-42[31] 11 March 2020 Unknown Travel-related Unknown South of country Unknown Male Unknown
43[31] 11 March 2020 Unknown Person-to-person spread Ireland East of country Unknown Male Unknown
44-65[33] 12 March 2020 - Person-to-person spread Ireland - - - -
66-67[33] 12 March 2020 - Community-related Ireland - - - -
68-70[33] 12 March 2020 - Travel-related Travel from affected area - - - -
71-76[36] 13 March 2020 - Travel-related Travel from affected area - - - -
77-88[36] 13 March 2020 4 are Healthcare workers Person-to-person spread Ireland - - - -
89-90[36] 13 March 2020 - Community-related Ireland - - - -
91-129[37] 14 March 2020 - - - 21 East, 13 South, 3 North/West, 2 West - 29 Male, 10 Female -
130-169[276] 15 March 2020 - - - 25 East, 9 West, 6 South - 23 Male, 17 Female -
170-223[277] 16 March 2020 - - - 41 East, 11 South, 2 North/West - 30 Male, 24 Female -
224-292[42] 17 March 2020 - - - 48 East, 13 South, 5 North/West, 3 West - 29 Male, 40 Female -
293-366[278] 18 March 2020 - - - - - 45 Male, 29 Female -
367-557[279] 19 March 2020 - - - - - - -
558-683[280] 20 March 2020 - - - - - - -
684-785[53] 21 March 2020 - - - - - - -
786-906[281] 22 March 2020 - - - - - - -
907-1125[282] 23 March 2020 - - - - - - -
1126-1329[59] 24 March 2020 - - - - - - -
1330-1564[60] 25 March 2020 - - - - - - -
1565-1819[61] 26 March 2020 - - - - - - -
1820-2121[283] 27 March 2020 - - - - - - -
2122-2415[66] 28 March 2020 - - - - - - -
2416-2615[67] 29 March 2020 - - - - - - -
2616-2910[68] 30 March 2020 - - - - - - -
2911-3235[69] 31 March 2020 - - - - - - -
3236-3447[70] 1 April 2020 - - - - - - -
3448-3849[14] 2 April 2020 - - - - - - -



Confirmed SARS-CoV-2 cases in Ireland by county ()

Date County
16 March ≤5 ≤5 ≤5 48 ≤5 129 12 6 ≤5 ≤5 - - 14 ≤5 ≤5 ≤5 ≤5 - ≤5 ≤5 ≤5 ≤5 7 7 ≤5 9
17 March ≤5 ≤5 ≤5 62 ≤5 172 13 6 6 ≤5 ≤5 ≤5 14 ≤5 6 ≤5 6 - ≤5 ≤5 ≤5 ≤5 7 7 ≤5 13
18 March ≤5 ≤5 7 66 ≤5 225 14 7 9 7 ≤5 ≤5 15 ≤5 8 ≤5 11 - ≤5 ≤5 ≤5 ≤5 7 12 ≤5 15
19 March ≤5 ≤5 7 88 ≤5 320 21 8 18 11 ≤5 ≤5 15 ≤5 9 ≤5 10 - 7 ≤5 ≤5 ≤5 8 14 ≤5 17
20 March ≤5 ≤5 7 101 ≤5 402 25 9 20 11 6 ≤5 15 ≤5 11 ≤5 11 ≤5 9 ≤5 ≤5 8 9 16 ≤5 22
21 March ≤5 ≤5 9 104 8 471 33 12 23 15 6 ≤5 18 ≤5 13 6 13 ≤5 10 ≤5 8 20 9 20 ≤5 22
22 March ≤5 ≤5 11 123 11 535 35 15 25 16 8 ≤5 19 ≤5 16 9 16 ≤5 13 ≤5 8 20 13 21 ≤5 28
23 March ≤5 ≤5 12 133 11 659 40 33 34 16 9 ≤5 19 ≤5 18 9 24 ≤5 13 ≤5 8 20 15 25 7 39
24 March ≤5 6 25 154 12 774 45 38 39 19 9 ≤5 24 ≤5 20 14 27 ≤5 16 ≤5 8 27 22 29 8 49
25 March ≤5 9 26 171 15 922 57 44 45 20 10 ≤5 36 ≤5 24 18 33 ≤5 19 7 8 34 25 39 9 52
26 March ≤5 11 31 184 15 1,070 63 47 56 29 11 ≤5 46 ≤5 27 21 41 8 22 8 8 44 29 52 10 58
27 March ≤5 19 34 208 24 1,233 68 53 61 33 14 ≤5 55 10 34 26 46 11 29 10 12 53 31 67 12 65
28 March ≤5 24 34 217 36 1,393 77 60 64 36 14 6 64 10 39 28 47 12 34 10 19 62 34 70 12 69
29 March ≤5 24 40 238 46 1,487 86 66 66 36 15 6 67 10 44 36 54 13 34 10 19 71 33 77 15 73
30 March ≤5 36 45 255 63 1,645 88 68 80 37 16 10 87 12 51 48 66 13 40 10 22 85 37 80 15 77
31 March ≤5 39 49 272 68 1,838 91 72 90 37 16 12 94 14 52 52 74 17 46 10 25 91 38 81 16 84
Source: Department of Health [284]


COVID-19 positive
Claire Byrne (above) self-isolated after developing what she thought was the common cold, but continued to present her current affairs TV programme from her garden shed. She later tested positive for COVID-19, less than two weeks after interviewing Tánaiste (deputy head of government) Simon Coveney (below) on live television. Contact tracing led Coveney, the first member of the Varadkar cabinet reported to have been tested, to receive a negative diagnosis.
COVID-19 negative
Self-confirmed notable SARS-CoV-2 infection cases in Ireland
Name Treatment Location Origin type Birth Occupation Sex Notes/
Reference
Michael Carton Hospitalised Dublin 1984 Fireman, former hurler Male [285]
Ciara Kelly Self-isolation Greystones, County Wicklow[286] Community-related 1971 Broadcaster, columnist, former medical doctor Female [287]
Claire Byrne Self-isolation Bray, County Wicklow[288] 1975 Journalist, presenter Female [289]
Siobhán Killeen Self-isolation Dublin 1995 Ladies' footballer and association football player Female [290]
Ryan Tubridy Self-isolation 1973 Broadcaster, writer Male [291]

Gallery

See also

References

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