Northern Ireland's health and social care services are facing a crisis as Covid-19 cases continue to surge, it has been warned.
Health Minister Robin Swann, speaking after 424 new cases and one death were recorded in the last 24 hours, said the "grim truth" of where Northern Ireland is heading has become "even clearer".
Mr Swann pointed to the fact that on June 30, just three people tested positive for the virus, which has now risen to 424 on September 30.
"Northern Ireland is at a crossroads. If our behaviour does not change, if attitudes to this virus toughen, then we are on the trajectory where hospital numbers will exceed those of the first wave in only six weeks time," Mr Swann said.
"Looking at the data, watching the trends, and from talking to our senior health officials and experts, I am now more concerned about what lies ahead in the next few months than I have since becoming health minister."
Mr Swann said it would be "inconceivable" for the Executive not to agree to further restrictions tomorrow.
The health minister also called for the public to "push the virus back and change its path" in a bid to save lives.
"This virus is no minor illness, it can destroy lives and it can claim lives," he added.
Mr Swann asked those flouting the health guidance to "examine your conscience".
The UUP MLA said Northern Ireland is facing "a crisis for our health and social care service and for many victims of Covid-19. "
Professor Ian Young, chief scientific adviser, said that the increase in cases is not due to an increase in testing, but due to increased community transmission. He said the number of hospital admissions continues to rise sharply.
The 424 new cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hour is the highest number of cases recorded since the pandemic began.
One further death has been recorded of a man aged 80 and over. He died in hospital in Belfast on September 28.
It brings the death toll in Northern Ireland from the virus to 579.
From Tuesday 7,943 tests have been carried out on 4,883 people. There have now been 11,693 confirmed cases of the virus since the pandemic began.
Over the past week 1,950 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.
There have been 487 cases recorded in the Derry City and Strabane council area over the past week, higher than that of Belfast which recorded 455 cases.
In Northern Ireland's hospitals there are a total of 67 Covid-19 inpatients with 10 patients in intensive care units.
Hospital beds are currently at 85% occupancy, with 14 intensive care unit beds remaining free.
Since the start of the pandemic 1,735 patients have been discharged from hospital after recovering from Covid-19.
There are currently 25 active outbreaks of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland's care homes.
It comes after the Belfast Health Trust has established a "Covid hub" to deal with a cluster outbreak at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Check out our blog below to see how Wednesday's developments unfolded: