THE grave look on the faces of Irish officials as they arrived outside Blair House moments before the Taoiseach said it all.
"Pay attention," said one, as he pointed to the podium where Leo Varadkar arrived minutes later to deliver a short statement that will be centre-stage when RTÉ is compiling 'Reeling in the Years 2020'.
"I need to speak to you about the coronavirus and Covid-19," the Taoiseach began, underlining the urgency and import of the words that would follow.
For the next two weeks, and possibly longer, the way we live our lives will change utterly. Schools, colleges, childcare facilities and cultural institutions will close from tomorrow. Restrictions are in effect from 6pm Irish time.
The Government is now advising that mass indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled.
People should still go to work but where possible should look to work from home, Mr Varadkar advised. Public transport will continue to operate and shops, restaurants and cafes will remain open - but with the sort of drop-off in footfall they can expect in the weeks ahead, it's difficult to envisage whether it would be worth their while.
"As a general rule, outside of work, people should seek to reduce social interactions as much as possible," he said.
Mr Varadkar concluded his statement on a hopeful note: "We're a great people. We've experienced hardship and struggle before. We've overcome many trials in the past, with our determination and our spirits and once again, we will prevail."
It had been an eventful 12 hours for the Taoiseach, who was forced to leave the Ireland Funds gala dinner abruptly on Wednesday in the wake of US President Donald Trump's unilateral announcement of travel restrictions on people coming from European countries other than Ireland and the UK.
Mr Varadkar's most senior official, Martin Fraser, escorted him from the dinner to a private room where he was briefed on the implications for Ireland.
He later left the event altogether to receive further briefings. But it is now clear that the discussions with his colleagues back home while most of Washington was asleep were not just about the US president's announcement.
They also centred on the announcement that Mr Varadkar made as dawn broke over the US capital of unprecedented limitations put on the public back in Ireland until the end of March.
"Our own national public health emergency team met last night and has issued new advice to government. We're acting on that advice today," Mr Varadkar said.
Ireland, it appears, is not affected by the US travel restrictions as they pertain to countries in the Schengen travel area. But Mr Varadkar did not address Mr Trump's announcement in his remarks and did not take questions.
The Taoiseach is due to convene an emergency Cabinet meeting, which is taking place in Dublin this afternoon. As he is nearly 5,500km across the Atlantic, Mr Varadkar will have to dial into the meeting.
It may become a footnote given the scale of this crisis, but the optics of Mr Varadkar delivering this most grave news from the US - and not the steps of Government Buildings - are not great for this caretaker government.
And it is also now far from clear what all of this means for the government formation talks, with the banning of mass gatherings impacting on political parties' ability to hold special conferences to ratify any programme for government.
Mr Varadkar is due to meet President Trump at the White House later, after which it is hoped he can shed more light on what all this means for the country and its government in the coming weeks.
There’s been carnage this morning on stock markets, with shares in airlines and hotels plunging after President Trump last night announced that the United States is closing its borders to visitors from most European countries until next month.