An index tracking consumer and business confidence crashed to a new low in March as the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak hit sentiment.  

Bank of Ireland's Economic Pulse registered a bigger monthly drop in March than that after the Brexit referendum result in the middle of 2016 and the election of Donald Trump later that year. 

The Economic Pulse came in at 70.4 in March, the lowest reading since it started to track sentiment just over four years ago. 

The index was down 16 on last month and 19 lower than a year ago.

Bank of Ireland also cautioned that as the March surveys were mainly conducted before the Government announced the closure of schools and other restrictions impacting normal every-day and economic activities, both will likely be dealt another blow next month.

Dr Loretta O'Sullivan, Group Chief Economist for Bank of Ireland, said the March survey findings give an initial feel for how the Covid-19 pandemic is playing out in economic terms. 

"Overall they paint a bleak picture, with the Economic Pulse plunging to a new low and registering a larger monthly drop than after the Brexit referendum result," the economist said. 

"The Business Pulse also posted a series low in March with the services sector leading the charge downward, while on the consumer front, worries about the economic outlook were to the fore," she said. 

Looking ahead, the school closures and other restrictions that have been put in place to contain the spread of the virus mean that this month’s weak prints are likely only the tip of the iceberg," she added.  

Meanwhile, the concern for the wider business sector is reflected in a survey of 900 firms carried out by the recruitment firm Osborne. 

The study found that while 93% said they support the government's action to contain the spread of coronavrius, 55% said they were worried about the survival of their business post-crisis. 

Almost two thirds said the situation would permanently change the way their business operates in the future.