DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland’s prime minister told citizens to stay home until April 12 to help slow the spread of coronavirus, only leaving to shop for groceries, for brief individual physical exercise or to make family visits that are absolutely essential.

FILE PHOTO: Ireland’s Prime Minister Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during a news conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Government Buildings in Dublin, Ireland March 24, 2020. Steve Humphreys/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Almost all shops will be shut, all public gatherings outside of household units prohibited completely, and those over the age of 70 or with chronic diseases will be told to stay in their homes completely, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said.

Varadkar had earlier warned that Ireland’s intensive care units will be at capacity within a few days given the rate of spread of coronavirus. Confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ireland rose to 2,121 on Friday from 1,819 a day ago, with 22 deaths.

“I’m appealing to every man, woman and child in our country to make these sacrifices for the love of each other… Show that you care for your family and friends: Stay home,” Varadkar told a news conference.

“There isn’t much more beyond this I think that we could do in terms of further restrictive measures.”

Ireland had previously closed schools, universities, pubs and most non-essential retail in a gradual ramping up of restrictions over the last two weeks.

Other fresh measures to be introduced from midnight include restricting public transport to essential workers, with travel for all severely restricted beyond two kilometers from the radius of their own home.

Ireland’s chief medical officer, Tony Holohan, said the initial measures were working with the increase in the total number of cases slowing down compared to what they might have expected but that “does not tell us that the worst is over.”

“We think we see signs that are encouraging us, that this is helping. But we think we need to go further,” he said.

“We think in the early course of this infection, with the support that we have had from the public, that with these additional strengthening measures, we can drive the infection back out of the community and more into households.”

Editing by Catherine Evans and Alistair Bell

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