Northern Ireland could face a second lockdown if people ignore public health advice, it has been warned.
In a joint platform piece Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride and Chief Scientific Officer Professor Ian Young warned that the public must remain vigilant as lockdown eases.
The pair said that any flouting of the remaining lockdown restrictions could lead to Northern Ireland experiencing a second lockdown, similar to those in Sydney and Leicester.
Their statement comes after panic in the small Co Down townland of Crossgar which led to local businesses closing and deserted streets after reports of a Covid-19 outbreak in the area.
On Thursday the Northern Ireland Executive announced the lifting of a raft of restrictions including indoor fitness studios and gyms, bingo halls and amusement arcades, outdoors leisure playgrounds, courts and gyms, and cinemas being allowed to reopen from Friday.
It was also announced that outdoor sporting events, including competitive games could resume from Saturday.
In their statement the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientist noted that another bank holiday weekend was approaching and that the weather may improve.
They urged the public to enjoy themselves, but to keep following the public health advice and keep everyone safe.
Their statement noted that some members of the public may be getting tired of the repetitiveness of the public health advice.
"Here’s the thing. That advice has already saved many lives," the statement read.
"And it is just as relevant today as when it was first issued – if not more so."
Dr McBride and Professor Young said that while it was easier to stay safe when staying at home, with people now getting out and about "the virus has new opportunities to extend its reach".
"That means vigilance is essential and complacency is a deadly enemy," the statement read.
"Don’t get tired of those messages just because they are so familiar.
"We have seen examples – from Leicester to Melbourne – where the virus has flared up again, leading to constraints being re-imposed on daily life.
"We must not think this could never happen here.
"It very much could."
However, the pair said that a second lockdown could be avoided if the public plays its part.
"The virus doesn't spread itself, we spread it," they said.
The Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientist acknowledged the toll the lockdown had taken on people's physical and mental health.
They said the economic fallout would have public health consequences too, citing the link between deprivation and poor health outcomes.
Dr McBride and Professor Young said that until a vaccine for Covid-19 is developed people would have to take responsibility for their own actions to halt the spread of the virus.
"We must all play our part in keeping each other safe and protecting our recently restored freedoms," the statement read.
"With those freedoms have come much greater individual responsibility.
"People have to decide for themselves every day on how to mitigate the inevitable risks."
They praised the Northern Ireland public for their response to the first wave of Covid-19 and said there are people alive today only because of the measures taken.
The pair stressed the importance of co-operating fully with the Test, Trace and Protect Strategy, wearing face coverings when appropriate and immediately reporting, self-isolating and receiving a test if displaying symptoms of the virus.
"People across Northern Ireland responded admirably to the first surge of Covid-19," the statement read.
"We cannot praise them enough for the way they rose to this unprecedented challenge.
"We have to sustain that spirit, that determination to keep looking after each other."