The Deputy Chief Medical Officer has said that if children continue to socialise and interact as they normally would, that measures to control the spread of coronavirus will not be as effective.

However, he also said that the Department of Health recognises that children still need to have a normal life.

Speaking as it was confirmed that 20 new cases of coronavirus have been identified in Ireland, Dr Ronan Glynn said: "If children continue to mix with other children in the way that they would normally do then the measures that we've recommended and taken this week won't be as effective as we want them to be.

"But our recommendations are not absolutist. Children still need to have a normal life. We recognise that.

"Children still will play with other children. What we're asking though is that in as much as it is possible, people, whether they're adults or children, reduce their level of social contact and reduce their discretionary social contact.

"Children can still play outside, they can still play in small groups, but what we don't want is big groups of children getting together like they would on the summer holidays, for example. So yes, children can still play together."

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Earlier, a consultant in respiratory medicine at St James's Hospital in Dublin urged parents to keep their children away from other children to stop the spread of the virus.

Dr Anne Marie McLaughlin told RTÉ News: "We are currently in the delay phase of this infection. We have one opportunity to get this right.

"We have one opportunity to stop the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland. The schools are closed, but this is not a school holiday.

"I would recommend that we stop all interactions of children, and adults, and teenagers outside of their household contacts.

"So that means no parties, no playdates, no visits to the playground, where your children will necessarily interact with other children.

"It is very important that we realise that children are vectors of Covid-19 - in addition to adults - but they can be asymptomatic carriers and potentially pass it on to more vulnerable members of society, particularly their grandparents. 

"Therefore it is my opinion that children should not be visiting their grandparents during this time.

"We can protect them, but without face-to-face contact."