Former World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Professor Karol Sikora says the worst of the coronavirus pandemic will hit Northern Ireland at Easter.
Professor Sikora, a leading cancer specialist and medical director of the Rutherford Cancer centres, has also predicted that the UK could start going back to normal in early May.
He warned that this can only happen if people pull together and obey social distancing rules for the next few weeks.
Speaking to the BBC's Talkback programme, Professor Sikora said: "There's no doubt that the peak for the NHS in Ulster is going to be Easter weekend - that's when we will see the maximum demand for healthcare."
"The optimistic view is that once that happens and we'll be able to cope with ventilator support for those who do get seriously ill, the numbers will gradually start to fall."
The former top WHO official believes a feasible scenario would be a return to some normality at the beginning of May.
"The great thing is that there has been no mutation or second wave of the virus, which means one can begin to think about relaxing things.
"Not putting all the lights on and everyone goes out and parties but rather just slowly and gradually.
"The priority would be to get small businesses back to work."
Professor Sikora said on average a person will infect up to 2.5 people with the virus.
But he added that once other people around then become immune, there's nowhere for the virus to go, so the pandemic disappears.
"The difficulty is making the judgment call of when to allow social distancing to relax, businesses reopen and the economy to grow. It's vital that we get that timing right," he added.