DEPUTY First Minister of Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill has called for the immediate closure of all schools and colleges in the UK in response to the spread of Covid-19.
Yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the closure of all schools, colleges and cultural institutions in the Republic of Ireland until at least March 29.
Ms O'Neill has called for the approach to be taken by the UK government, amid a climate of uncertainty compounded from mixed messages from Boris Johnson and his government about the severity of the virus, and a lack of action in comparison to European countries, even where the virus has not taken such a hold.
The Sinn Féin Vice President said: "People are rightly concerned about the implications of Covid-19, on them and on their families and their loved ones.
"I believe that on the back of the public concern that's clearly there, on the back of the angst that's there among the wider public, now is the time to take action.
"Now is the time to ensure that all schools are closed, that universities and colleges are closed. That needs to happen immediately."
The government in the UK has been criticised for its delay in taking action against the coronavirus. British Prime Minster Boris Johnson has previously underplayed the toll the virus would take, but yesterday called it "the worst public health crisis for a generation".
Ms O'Neill said that the lack of consistency in the message being relayed to the UK public is spreading fear, and quicker action from Westminster needs to be taken.
"I think the fact that there has been contradictory medical evidence out there is a problem," she said.
"It's a problem for people trying to make the right decision for them and their families. I believe, given that as a situation we need to air on the side of caution.
"I think we need to give the people that reassurance that they're looking for in terms of a government approach. It's very clear in my mind that what we need to see is one approach across this island, one message that's consistent so that the public are not even more confused than what they are as we speak today."
An Garda Síochána has announced training is being postponed so that over 300 Garda students, and gardaí working as tutors, can join the acting force now in an effort to limit the effect of Coronavirus.