The head of Northern Ireland's health watchdog has been handed a key role in the fight to save lives during the coronavirus pandemic, it can be revealed.
Olive Macleod has temporarily stepped down as chief executive of the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) to lead the Public Health Agency (PHA) instead.
It comes after Valerie Watts, who had been interim chief executive of the PHA since October 2016, was stood down from the post.
Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly revealed the development in a letter to NHS colleagues in which he said: "I am overwhelmed by the way you are rallying together to ensure that we continue to provide the best advice and safe care in these very difficult times.
"In a health crisis such as we are seeing, the roles undertaken by the PHA and Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) become even more critical to our ability to work regionally in meeting public need.
"Until now, and on an interim basis, Valerie Watts has been acting in the capacity of chief executive of the PHA alongside her substantive role as chief executive of the HSCB.
"While I am very grateful to Valerie for doing this, and her stewardship of PHA, in the current circumstances this approach is no longer tenable."
Meanwhile, the RQIA is to be led by Dermot Parsons, who was previously the organisation's director of assurance, while Ms Macleod takes a lead role in Northern Ireland's battle against Covid-19.
Alongside the Department of Health, the PHA has been developing strategies, policies and educating the public on how best to protect themselves from coronavirus.
Raising awareness of the symptoms of Covid-19 and encouraging people to self-isolate and follow social distancing measures are two vital strands in the effort to save lives across the globe.