Leo Varadkar’s government has seen far fewer cases as a result of their first shutdown measures, which came far before ours.
Some analysts now believe that this early intervention has helped stop the spread of the coronavirus – but experts are divided on the impact.
By last night Ireland had reported 10,647 cases of Covid-19 and just 365 deaths.
That works out at around seven per 100,000 of the population.
However, Britain had reported 11,329 deaths, nearly 17 per 100,000 of the population.
Britain has around 30 times more deaths than the UK does – but has a far bigger population.
When Ireland was reported to have shut its schools on March 12, Downing Street said at the time: “We follow our own advice, they will do the same.”
Just a week later on March 18, Boris Johnson followed suit.
But a full lockdown was not put in place until March 23 – weeks after Ireland had put theirs in place on March 15.
Ireland is testing more people as a proportion of their population than the UK is.
On Saturday it processed nearly 8,000 tests, but the UK, which has a population ten times the size of Ireland’s, processed 18,000.
Neither country has yet run out of hospital capacity after it was ramped up following the country’s outbreak.
Officials were asked at last night’s press conference whether we should have gone further, sooner, like many other countries have done.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said we would have to wait to find out.
He said: “We have a long way to go yet in this disease. It is still new.”
He added: “There’s a lot to learn from other countries about what we need to do and we’re looking at them very closely for what they plan to do on lockdown measures.”
And Dominic Raab told the nation: “We will continue to monitor what’s going on in other countries and make sure we feed that into what we’re doing here.”
Experts said it was too early to tell whether Ireland’s approach had saved lives, or just delayed them.
If Ireland choose to end their lockdown earlier than the rest of the UK, they could risk a second peak as is being reported in areas of Asia at the moment.
Writer and researcher Dr Elaine Doyle wrote a series of tweets comparing the two approaches, and said: ““While Boris [Johnson] was telling the British people to wash their hands, our taoiseach was closing the schools.
“While Cheltenham was going ahead, and over 250,000 people were gathering in what would have been a massive super-spreader event, Ireland had cancelled St Patrick’s Day.”
Dr William Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard University, told the Guardian that it “remains to see how this will all pan out”.
But he added:
“The resulting surge can reasonably be expected to have been more severe than it would have been otherwise.”