Taoiseach Leo Varadker has announced a number of new restrictions, as the battle against Covid-19 is stepped up.

In a press conference shortly after 4pm, Mr Varadker asked people to stay at home if at all possible, and said people should only leave their home to go to work - if they can't work from home - to get essential food and medical supplies and to take exercise.

He announced that all hairdressers, casinos, bingo halls, theatres and gyms are to close, as well as marts, markets and betting shops.

All non-essential shops are to close, while restaurants and cafes are limited to take-away or delivery only.

Hotels are to limit their occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist activities, and Mr Varadker said social gatherings are to involve no more than four people, unless they're from the same household.

He said no unnecessary travel was to be taken, within the country or overseas, while caravan parks and playgrounds are to close.

All existing coronavirus measures, including the closure of schools and pubs, will be extended until Sunday 19th April.

Earlier this afternoon, the Minister for Education Joe McHugh said the Leaving and Junior Cert exams are still scheduled to go ahead in June, but that could change, depending on the spread of coronavirus in the community.

The emergency welfare payment for workers who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis will increase to €350 per week.

And in a significant new move the Government will also pay 70% of employee wages up to €410 per week for businesses who are willing to meet the remainder of their staff’s weekly payment.

The Taoiseach said this situation could go on for weeks, or even months, but said better times are yet to come.

In the meantime, he said it's vital that everyone continues to take the necessary precautions in terms of hygiene and social distancing......

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