Health Minister Robin Swann has expressed hope Northern Ireland is starting to "turn the corner" on the second wave of Covid-19.
n a written statement to the Assembly, Mr Swann said the rate of infection increase had slowed from last week.
He said the tally of 296 patients currently in hospitals was "very close to peak levels" of wave one and in some of the region's health trusts that level had been exceeded.
"Whilst we are sadly reporting a number of deaths each day now, and R remains above one both for cases and hospital admissions, it does appear that Northern Ireland may be beginning to turn the corner on this wave," the UUP MLA said.
"The R number has fallen slightly since last week. This is likely to reflect both the impact of the Northern Ireland-wide household restrictions and the wider restrictions in Derry City and Strabane Local Government District area.
"The percentage of positive tests has also begun to plateau, while remaining at a high level. Assuming that current restrictions reduce R to less than one, Professor Young (chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young) has advised that we expect some indication of an improvement in these measures in the next week."
It comes after the Department of Health reported a further five deaths and 1,252 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday.
It brings to 6,893 the number of new cases that has been diagnosed since the outbreak in NI. There are 296 patients with the virus in hospitals and 34 patients in intensive care.
Two women died on Friday after testing positive for the virus. One woman, who died in a hospital in Newry, Mourne and Down, was in the 60-70 age bracket. The other died in a hospital in Mid-Ulster and was aged 80 or over.
Three other patients died in hospital in Derry City and Strabane on Thursday. Two women were aged 80 or over and the other patient, a man, was aged between 60 and 79.
The Department of Health death toll now stands at 639.
Northern Ireland's Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) said on Friday there were 27 deaths involving Covid-19 recorded up until last Friday, October 16.
That was an increase of 20 on the seven reported the previous week.
It brings the total death toll recorded by the government statistics agency to 942.
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