Schools and colleges in Ireland close for two weeks to stop coronavirus

Schools, colleges and childcare facilities in Ireland are to close for two weeks due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the country's premier has announced.

Leo Varadkar said the action had to be taken to try to prevent the spread of the infection.

He made a live statement to the nation from Washington DC, where he is due to meet President Donald Trump later as part of the annual St Patrick's Day programme of events.

The Taoiseach said many more people in Ireland would get the virus and would get sick.

"Unfortunately we must face the tragic reality that some people will die," he said.

Mr Varadkar said he was acting on fresh advice from the country's National Public Health Emergency Team.

"The virus is all over the world, it will continue to spread but it can be slowed," he said.

He said the Government had a duty to protect those at risk categories of people, such as older people and those with underlying conditions.

"We have not witnessed a pandemic of this nature in living memory and this is uncharted territory for us," he said.

"We said we would take the right actions at the right time and we have to move now to have the greatest impact."

Health minister Simon Harris announced in Dublin that the country had officially moved to the "delay" phase, which aims to reduce the peak impact of the virus and slow its spread.

The school closures are among a range of restrictions coming into place at 6pm on Thursday.

Cultural institutions in Ireland are also closing.

Advice has been issued to cancel all indoor mass gatherings involving 100 people or more and outdoor gatherings of 500 or more.

People have been urged to continue to go to work but, where possible, to work from home.