Radical measures announced by the Irish Government to curtail the spread of coronavirus were prompted by advice in a letter from health experts.
Minister for Health Simon Harris said he received the letter on Thursday from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).
The Government received recommendations to move to the delay phase following a significant increase in coronavirus cases over recent days.
The letter of advice came following a NPHET meeting on Wednesday night to review the latest evidence of the spread of Covid-19.
Health officials said there are now clusters of virus cases in hospitals, with some in intensive care and a number arising from community transmission.
In a statement, NPHET said: “New advice provided by European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) yesterday, highlighting that the detection of Covid-19 cases and deaths outside of known chains of transmission is a strong signal that social distancing should be considered.
“The ECDC also recommended that the measures should be taken early and should be decisive, rapid, co-ordinated and comprehensive.”
The Irish Government acted on the advice by introducing a number of measures in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
– Individuals who have symptoms should self-isolate for a period of 14 days.
– Individuals should reduce discretionary social contacts as much as possible.
– Elderly and/or medically vulnerable people should reduce as much as possible contacts outside home.
– There should be no mass gatherings involving more than 100 people if located indoors, or involving more than 500 people if located outdoors.
– Closure of museums, galleries and tourism sites.
– Closure to students of schools, creches, other childcare facilities and higher education institutions.
– Reduction of workplace contacts, and implementation of remote working practices and teleconferencing where possible and not to travel for meetings. Work time and break times should be staggered, where possible.
– Restriction of visiting at hospitals, long-term care settings, mental health facilities, prisons, and spacing measures in homeless shelters.
NPHET recommends the measures should be in place until Sunday March 29.
Its statement added: “The impact of these measures will be under continuous review.
Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, said: “The National Public Health Emergency Team and the health sector in its entirety has been preparing for the effects of Covid-19 on our population.
“Now we need citizens to follow these new measures and help us protect the most vulnerable in our society, help our health service treat this virus effectively and ultimately keep each other as healthy as possible.”