The decision to shut every school, college and childcare facility in the country, as well as cultural institutions, was done without Cabinet approval, it can be revealed.
The Irish Examiner has confirmed that the
The Cabinet, in Mr Varadkar's absence, did later formally approve the decision when it met this afternoon.
At the meeting, impact sectoral briefings were delivered by Tanaiste Simon Coveney, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, Business Minister Heather Humphreys, Transport Minister Shane Ross, Health Minister Simon Harris and Education Minister Joe McHugh.
While at the Cabinet meeting, several senior ministers received text messages and picture messages of people “panic buying” goods and it was agreed that pleas must be made to limit such activity.
- * From 6pm last night, the following measures were put in place, and they will stay in place until the 29th of March – all schools, colleges, and childcare facilities will close from tomorrow. Where possible teaching will be done online and remotely cultural institutions will close as well, the Taoiseach said.
- * All indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people, and outdoor mass gatherings, more than 500 people should be cancelled.
- * People should continue to go to work if possible, but should look to work from home.
- * In order to reduce unnecessary face to face interaction in the workplace, right times and working time should be staggered and meetings done remotely, or by phone,
- * Public transport will continue to operate the shops will remain open.
Speaking to the public, Mr Varadkar said people can play your part by hand washing coughing and sneezing and your elbow or tissue and seeking medical advice if you develop symptoms.
“This is now more important than ever,” he said.
Later on Thursday afternoon, the Taoiseach held a last minute press conference before leaving for the airport.
He confirmed that he had thought of cancelling the entire trip to Washington but had had a productive trip given the circumstances.
He added that he did not regret the announcement about closing schools, saying it was "better to be safe than sorry", after it sparked mass panic buying in supermarkets across ireland.
"I think this came down to public health and putting human life first, the actions taken were taken on advice from public health experts who felt they were necessary," he said.
"There's no need for panic buying or panic shopping, retail associations assure us that supply chains are strong." He added that panic buying could actually make the situation worse.
"This is a rapidly developing situation and we'll make sure the public are updated.
Mr Varadkar confirmed that the Defence Forces are prepared to intervene if required.
“I can't go into detail but I can say that the Irish Defence Forces stand ready to aid the civil power of necessary,” he said.
“And both the Chief of Staff of the defence forces and the Garda Commissioner and their teams have been briefed about plans over the last couple of weeks so the Garda and Defence Forces stand readily available.”