Northern Ireland could be facing up to 30,000 new Covid cases every day in the coming weeks according to worst case health modelling.
The stark figure was revealed on BBC’s Sunday Politics programme by the deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, who said the virus will hit Northern Ireland “like a ton of bricks” in the coming weeks.
Ms O’Neill said health officials have told the Executive Northern Ireland could be facing 11,000 cases a day in less than a week and other modelling has shown many times this figure by the middle of January.
The minister also said Covid advisors have confirmed the peak of the Omicron variant will come in mid-January.
On Saturday Northern Ireland recorded five more deaths linked to Covid-19 and recorded 2,075 daily cases – the first time a figure over 2,000 has been recorded on a Saturday.
Ms O’Neill said ministers will meet informally over the coming days before an official briefing from health officials on Wednesday.
The minister said we are potentially going through the “worst time throughout the pandemic” and said more information about the impact on hospitalisations in Northern Ireland will start to emerge from health officials this week.
Ms O’Neill said there is a “danger of moving too early” amid some calls to introduce further restrictions before Christmas and said the advice from health officials is “to wait”.
She also said Stormont “needs money in order to support interventions” and said Northern Ireland “cannot be held to ransom by what is happening in England”.
"All of our executive ministers are planning for the sheer volume of cases we expect through January,” she said.
“What we need to do is to be prudent. The right intervention at the right time for the right length of time is important.
“We know that in the worst-case scenario in terms of some of the modeling that has been done we could be facing up to 30,000 cases a day. The sheer volume of cases is going to be overwhelming.
“We do have a window to plan because we can watch what is happening in England. We probably have a week to two weeks.
“Everything is on the table we have to look at all options. We will have a clearer picture tomorrow in terms of the impact on hospital numbers.
“The difference with this strain and previous strains is the sheer fact this will hit us hard but hit us quick. I can assure everybody at home every minister is working round the clock to mitigate as best we can what is going to be a very difficult time.”