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Fears schools won't reopen until May as cases jump to 557

Third death here from coronavirus is confirmed


(Stock picture)

(Stock picture)

(Stock picture)

There is fresh uncertainty over the viability of written State exams this summer, after the Taoiseach warned schools could now be shut until May due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Students were assured it is too early to make any final decision, with the coming weeks crucial in slowing the spread of Covid-19.

But Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle oral and practical exams have already been cancelled.

The move to cancel these exams was welcomed by principals for the certainty it offers students at what is an already pressurised time.

However, last night Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told his Fine Gael colleagues that schools could be closed until May.

During a teleconference call with his parliamentary party, Mr Varadkar said he expected school closures to extend beyond March 29.

It came as the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland soared to 557. A third person has died from the infection and another 191 tested positive.

Pensioners are bearing the brunt, with 31 over-65s admitted to hospital.

The Taoiseach has also warned there could be a need for an emergency budget to introduce further financial measures to tackle coronavirus. However, he said a new government would have to be in place first.

Up to 500,000 people could lose their jobs in Ireland because of the crisis, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has said.

Irish Independent