SINN Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has called for schools' Easter holidays to be brought forward as part of measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
Ms McDonald has written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar calling for efforts to be "stepped up" to "keep families safe" and "ensure containment policies are adequate".
She also said minimising social contact has to be "taken seriously" and that there needs to be strict direction across the private and public sectors that people should work from home where possible.
Ms McDonald added: "We believe that now is the time to make clear that social gatherings, mass gatherings, are either postponed or cancelled.
"We believe that the Easter holidays for schools should be brought forward and that arrangements need to be initiated for that."
She suggested that schools not returning after St Patrick's Day would be a "natural hiatus".
Ms McDonald said the advice of the Chief Medical Officer would be needed but: "we need to be fair to parents, and we need to be fair to staff, and to children.
"We need to indicate concretely here that school closures will be on the cards.
"I would prefer us to do that in an orderly way rather than to have parents turn on their television at tea time some evening to be told that all of the schools across the land, are closing tomorrow or on a given Monday."
Ms McDonald added: "we actually have to trust our people to understand and to be sensible, and to be calm and orderly, as we go about doing the kinds of things that we're going to have to do."
She said testing for coronavirus needs to be "ramped up very significantly".
Ms McDonald said such measures will be difficult and bear an economic cost: "but we need to get ahead of this if we can".
"The population is aware, we are all aware, that we are going to have to do things that curtail our lifestyles and that make life awkward for us but we are also aware that the stakes literally could not be higher because people will be getting sick.
"We've had our first death. Lives will be lost.
"And it's our absolute responsibility as leaders and as citizens to ensure that we minimise suffering and that we minimise the loss of life."