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We are in this for long haul, says Taoiseach
Minister for Health Simon Harris, chief executive of Alone Sean Moynihan and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arriving at Alone office in Dublin 8 Pic: RollingNews.ie

25 Mar 2020 / iRELAND Print

We are in this for long haul, says Taoiseach

In his speech yesterday An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government is taking unprecedented actions to respond to an unprecedented emergency.

A framework agreement with private hospitals means that they will operate effectively as public hospitals under Section 38 of the Health Act 2004 for the duration.

This will add over two thousand beds, nine laboratories, critical care capacity and thousands of staff to the health service.

Private and public patients will be treated equally and the private hospitals have agreed to do this on a not-for-profit basis, An Taoiseach said, thanking those involved for their co-operation.


He said action had been agreed in three areas:

(1)  New measures to slow the spread of the virus as recommended by the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) – an expert team of public health doctors, virologists and scientists.

(2) New measures to assist those who have lost or will lose their jobs as a consequence of the Emergency and a scheme to ensure that many others do not and remain on the payroll rather than being laid off.

(3) New emergency legislation which the Dáil and Seanad will be asked to enact before the end of the week.

He thanked all involved in the “great national effort” including:

  • health service and civil service,
  • local authorities,
  • volunteers and NGOs,
  • Defence Forces,
  • Gardaí,
  • Retailers, farmers and transport workers,
  • Carers and care workers,
  • Postal workers and those working in pharma, food production, food service and medical devices.

“Thanks also to everyone helping others in a million different ways.

“All those in religious life, our journalists and broadcasters, and everyone doing their best to raise the spirits of our country.


“You are rising to this challenge and the nation is grateful,” he said.

He thanked the people of Ireland for listening to advice on physical distancing, regular handwashing, taking care when sneezing and coughing, and reducing the number of social events and gatherings.  

“It’s too early to know for sure, but we believe it is making a difference,” he said.

“However, we now believe we need to do more. We need to flatten the curve and suppress this virus.


“So, I am asking you to stay home if at all possible. That is the best way to slow the virus, ensure our hospitals are not overwhelmed and buy us the time we need to build more capacity – testing, contact tracing, beds, ventilators.

“So, you should only leave home to go to work if you can’t work from home and your attendance is essential. You should only go to the shops for essential supplies, out for medical or dental appointments, to care for others or to take physical exercise.


Non-essential indoor visits to other people’s homes should be avoided. Social gatherings of individuals outdoors should be of no more than four, unless from the same household.

We are in this for long haul, he said.

“This could go on for weeks or months and we need to maintain our humanity, we need to see our families and loved ones and look after our mental and physical health. And we can do it if we maintain a physical distance of two metres or more.”

No unnecessary travel should take place within the country or overseas, now or over the Easter break.  

  • All theatres, clubs, gyms/leisure centres, hairdressers, betting shops, marts, markets, casinos, bingo halls, libraries and other similar outlets are to shut,
  • All hotels to limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons,
  • All non-essential retail outlets are to close to members of the public and all other retail outlets are to implement physical distancing, All cafes and restaurants are to limit supply to take away food or delivery,
  • All sporting events are cancelled, including those behind closed doors,
  • All playgrounds and holiday/caravan parks will close,
  • All places of worship are to restrict numbers entering at any one time to ensure adequate physical distancing,
  • All organised social indoor and outdoor events of any size are not to take place.

Gardai will increase interventions where venues are not in compliance with, or where groups of people are not adhering to recommended physical distancing.

Restrict movements

All household contacts of a suspect case should restrict movements until the test is reported negative or for 14 days since the onset of symptoms, whichever is shorter.

Individuals should work from home unless attendance at workplace is absolutely essential.

All non-essential indoor visits to other persons’ homes should be avoided.

All crowded places, including public amenities, should be avoided.

All scheduled cruise ship travel will cease.

Any setting that should close has been specifically identified.

There will be an increased presence of park rangers and Gardaí in parks and public places to ensure physical distancing is being observed.

Policing by consent

An Taoiseach said that Ireland, since independence, had always had policing by consent rather than coercion.

“I don’t intend for that to change now. That’s not our way. The new powers afforded to the Gardaí will be used sparingly and only when necessary.  

“Let’s all play our part and ensure they are not used at all.  

“I believe a liberal democracy can do this without the need for authoritarian or draconian actions.

“The impact of COVID-19 on our economy and employment has been sudden and will be enormous.


“I believe we need to maintain social solidarity, unity and a sense of community in this time of trial,” he said.

 He said the cost will be great and will run to many billions of euro in the coming months.

“But we can bear it and we will be able to pay it back as a nation. We do so willingly because it is the right thing to do and because we owe it to our fellow citizens.

Maintain link

He said emergency financial measures will maintain the link between employees and employers and make it easier for the economy to bounce back when this is all over.

“We will keep our economic infrastructure intact. We will give businesses the best chance of making it through this,” he said.

“We cannot yet stop this virus but working together we can slow it in its tracks and push it back.  These are extraordinarily difficult times for everyone – in Ireland and around the world. But no matter what happens, we will always put your life and your health ahead of any other concern.  

“All our resources are being deployed in this great national effort. And I know that the Irish people will continue to face this head-on, to make the changes that are required, and will pull through to the other side,” he said.

“Four years ago we commemorated the 1916 Rising and we celebrated the men and women who helped us win our freedom and our independence.  


“I never believed that we would be called upon to match their courage, or their example. 

“Today we are.

“Working together our country will come through this emergency. We will be tested – but will succeed.  

“Our greatest generation was not in the past.   

“Better times are yet to come,” he finished.


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