The Taoiseach has asked people to stay at home and only venture outside when absolutely necessary.

The call came as the Government announced what it called "unprecedented actions" to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus and avoid hospitals being overwhelmed.

Among the measures announced was the closure of all non-essential retail outlets.

So what are the essential retail outlets that can remain open?

The following is the list, as published by the Department of the Taoiseach, of what are considered essential retail outlets.

Essential Retail Outlets

1. Retail and wholesale sale of food, beverages and newspapers in non-specialised and specialised stores;

2. Retail sale of household consumer products necessary to maintain the safety and sanitation of residences and businesses;

3. Pharmacies/Chemists and retailers providing pharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical or dispensing services;

4. Opticians/Optometrists;

5. Retail sale of selling medical and orthopaedic goods in specialised stores;

6. Fuel stations and heating fuel providers;

7. Retailers involved in the repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycle repair and related facilities (eg. tyre sales and repairs);

8. Retail sale of essential items for the health and welfare of animals, including animal feed and medicines, animal food, pet food and animal supplies including bedding;

9. Laundries and Dry Cleaners;

10. Banks, Post Offices and Credit Unions;

11. Retail sale of safety supply stores (for eg. work clothes, Personal Protective Equipment);

12. Hardware stores, builders' merchants and stores that provide hardware products necessary for home and business maintenance, sanitation and farm equipment, supplies and tools essential for gardening / farming / agriculture;

13. Retail sale of office products and services for individuals working from home and for businesses;

14. Retailers providing electrical, IT and phone sales, repair and maintenance services for home.

All of these outlets must implement social distancing measures:

- Ensure adequate distancing between customers and retail assistants in line with public health guidelines;

- Only let people into the store in small groups and ensure spaces are not crowded;

- Manage queues inside and outside the door to maintain necessary social distancing;

- All retail outlets are encouraged to designate certain times of the day to facilitate vulnerable groups who may need to use their services;

- Where practicable and in so far as is possible, parents are encouraged to limit bringing their children with them when visiting essential retail outlets;

- All retailers are encouraged to provide online services where that is possible and appropriate to minimise footfall;

- All such retailers are encouraged to offer contactless payment arrangements; and

- All other retailers can continue to operate if they can do so on an online basis having regard to general social distancing measures appropriate to all workplaces.