The highly restrictive measures put in place last week to slow the spread of Covid-19 may well be extended beyond the initial deadline of 12 April, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar significantly ramped up previous restrictions last Friday when he ordered citizens to stay home and only leave to shop for groceries, for brief individual physical exercise or make absolutely essential family visits.

"I think people do need to realise that these restrictions may go on for some time," Mr Coveney told a briefing this morning.

"We've set an initial period but I think it may well be that we will need to go beyond that initial deadline, but again that will be a decision take with the best public health advice."

The Government has also announced a new initiative called 'The Community Call' to marshal volunteers across the country.

Mr Coveney said the scheme would be in every town and parish. It will be a partnership of local and national government and the voluntary sector.

There will be 31 community call offices across the country. Mr Coveney said communities would be the decisive factor in restoring communities and the economy.

He said volunteers would help getting groceries or collecting medicines as required, adding that people would be vetted and users could trust the system.

Rural and Community Affairs Minister Michael Ring revealed 8,500 people volunteered last week. He said people were frightened but "neighbours could trust neighbours".

Asked how long cocooning might continue, Mr Coveney said it may well go beyond the initial deadline and he could not put a timescale on it.

The Community Call initiative will be overseen at a local level by the country's 31 local authorities.

Those looking to engage with the service are being advised to call the Alone Helpline - 0818 222 024 - or their local authority helpline.

The charity Alone will direct the requests that it receives to the relevant Community Call office.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said that from today every local authority has established a community forum as part of the initiative.

Each one will include a range of State, voluntary and community organisations, including the HSE, an Garda Síochána, the GAA, the Red Cross, migrant forums and the IFA.

Elsewhere, Assistant Secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach Liz Canavan said €54m had been spent on the wage subsidy scheme and 36,000 employers had registered.

The number of employers applying increased by 10,000 between Monday and Wednesday.

The Irish Government yesterday donated €10m to the UN Global Response plan to tackle the virus. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs are liaising with 1,000 people in 86 countries - mostly in Australia and New Zealand.

Ms Canavan also said there were concerns around rent increases. She said there should be no increases since Thursday 27 March, and they were asking landlords to show forbearance.

Additional reporting Laura Fletcher

Community Call helpline phone numbers for your area

Carlow County Council 1800 814 300

Cavan County Council 1800 300 404

Clare County Council 1890 252 943

Cork City Council 1800 222 226

Cork County Council 1800 805 819

Donegal County Council 1800 928 982

Dublin City Council 01 222 8555

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council 01 271 3199

Fingal County Council 01 890 5000

Galway City Council 1800 400 150

Galway County Council 1800 928 894 and 091 509 390

Kerry County Council 1800 807 009

Kildare County Council 045 980 202

Kilkenny County Council 1800 500 000

Laois County Council 1800 832 010

Leitrim County Council 071 965 0473

Limerick City & County Council 1800 832 005

Longford County Council 043 334 4255

Louth County Council 1800 805 817

Mayo County Council 094 906 4660

Meath County Council 1800 808 809

Monaghan County Council 1800 804 158

Offaly County Council 1800 818 181

Roscommon County Council 1800 200 727

Sligo County Council 1800 292 765

South Dublin County Council 01 414 9043

Tipperary County Council 076 106 5000

Waterford City and County Council 1800 250 185

Westmeath County Council 1800 805 816

Wexford County Council 053 919 6000

Wicklow County Council 1800 868 399