A mandatory order for everyone to stay at home for a two-week period until 12 April, apart from certain exceptions, is in effect across the country.

The significantly stronger measures to boost the fight against Covid-19 came into effect at midnight last night, and include people only being allowed to leave home for essential work, to buy food, or for certain vital reasons such as attending medical appointments. 

Shielding or 'cocooning' for all those over 70 years of age and certain categories of people who are vulnerable to Covid-19 is also being introduced.

Under the new restrictions, people not 'cocooning' can leave their homes for a walk/run within a 2km limit, but can travel beyond the 2km limit for food shopping.

There is no need to panic buy or stockpile and supply chains are working well and will continue to do so.

The 2km limit relates to physical exercise within your locality.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said last night that what happens next in this public health emergency is up to each and every of us and urged people to show that they care by staying at home.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said the measures are aimed at driving the virus back out of our communities and into households where it can be contained further and dealt with more successfully.

70 patients have now been admitted to hospital Intensive Care Units here due to COVID-19, according to new figures today from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

The latest figures are up to 3pm yesterday and represent an increase on the 59 cases reported then.

The huge concern about the rapid increase in those admissions was the key factor behind the decision to introduce the new restrictions. 

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Yesterday, the National Public Health Emergency Team announced three more coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the number of people who have died from the virus to 22.

It also confirmed 302 further Covid-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Republic to 2,121.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said in 50% of Covid-19 cases identified, they have no links which show how the infection was picked up.

"This tells us the virus is in the community," he said.

Around 80% of cases of Covid-19 will be a mild to moderate illness, close to 14% have severe disease and around 6% are critical.

Generally, you need to be 15 minutes or more in the vicinity of an infected person, within 1-2 metres, to be considered at-risk or a close contact.

The President of the Intensive Care Society of Ireland warned that Covid-19 is more contagious than originally thought and urged all people to stay at home.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Catherine Motherway said the surge is evident in ICU now with 70-75 people admitted this week and warned people that resources are finite.

The concern for healthcare workers is that people seem to get sick quickly and together and present together, she said.

Dr Motherway said it is very real and very frightening but we have a slight advantage from other countries in trying to control the surge, by seeing what has worked elsewhere.

However, she said we will lose a lot of lives.

She said if people wholeheartedly embrace the controls it will save thousands of lives, while those working in hospitals will save hundreds of lives.

She urged everyone to keep their homes extremely clean and wash their hands frequently, even when at home.