A leading Dublin immunologist has slammed so-called virus parties as being irresponsible and selfish amid reports of thousands of students hosting get-togethers in houses and large pub gatherings.
Only hours after the Government ordered all schools and colleges to close until further notice to combat Covid-19, hundreds of students in Cork were seen packing pubs around College Road and other neighbourhoods.
Similar parties were also held in Dublin, Galway, Waterford and Limerick, with many off-licences reporting a surge in sales.
Kingston Mills, professor of experimental immunology at Trinity College Dublin, said packed pubs and house parties are perfect breeding grounds for the virus, and attending them defeats the purpose of closing schools and colleges to reduce the risk of transmission.
While young people are unlikely to get sick if they contract the virus, they can still pass it on to the elderly and infirm, who can die from it.
"This is completely irresponsible behaviour and it's selfish behaviour. It flies in the face of the advice from everyone as gathering in a pub is a very good venue for transmission," he said.
He also advised people to err on the side of caution and avoid pubs or attending house parties over the St Patrick's Day holiday.
"Anyone who has common sense needs to look at the risks they're putting themselves in," he said.
A Cork University Hospital medic said the behaviour was "beyond belief given the situation the country finds itself in".
Prof John Crown posted on social media: "I am not sure people will understand the importance - the necessity - of extreme social distancing until pub hours are curtailed and numbers allowed in are limited."
Dublin Lord Mayor Tom Brabazon issued a public appeal last night, urging everyone to act responsibly during the coronavirus crisis.
"These are extraordinary times for Dublin, Dubliners and all of us who live on the island of Ireland and beyond," he said.
"Measures introduced by the caretaker government in the light of the suffering of thousands of our fellow human beings around the world are right.
"By reducing unnecessary interaction, keeping the social distance and complying with handwashing and sanitisation, we seek to prevent the spread of the virus.
"By doing the right thing we can, and will, save countless lives.
"If we do not do the right thing, we will do the opposite."
He also urged people not to engage in panic-buying, which is completely unnecessary, and to check on elderly neighbours to ensure they are safe.