Health minister Robin Swann has again appealed to the public not to relax their guard over the threat of Covid-19.
Following the announcement of 20 further deaths from the virus in Northern Ireland , Mr Swann made a direct appeal to anyone who’s having doubts about the seriousness of the outbreak.
“I address anyone who has attempted to relax their guard on social distancing. Let them think about the 20 families grieving today. Let them think about those who have lost their lives,” he said.
“Let them think about the key workers that have perished. We all need to keep doing the right thing on social distancing."
Mr Swann also revealed that the Northern Ireland Executive has started discussing face coverings this week but expressed concern that they could lead to a “false sense of security”.
It follows suggestions form the Scottish government that face coverings should be used when out in public.
Chief Medical Officer Dr McBride warned that wearing a face covering “must not be seen as a substitute” to advice including washing hands thoroughly.
Dr McBride also said testing is being “ramped up very significantly”.
“We have worked tirelessly to increase our testing capacity and we’re now in a situation where we can use that capacity to begin the very important community surveillance that we will now require in the next phase of our response,” he said.
He said testing is being rolled out to GP practices and, from Monday, started testing all admissions to hospitals.
There was positive news on the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units in Northern Ireland hospitals.
Mr Swann said some “tentative improvements” are starting to be seen, including a drop in the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care to 34.
He warned, though, that Northern Ireland “remains on a knife edge”.
“Don’t let anyone say this has all been overblown because, believe me, it hasn’t,” he said, adding the scale of deaths is reaching what was seen in the worst days of the Troubles.
Mr Swann also warned that when the time comes to ease social distancing, it will “not be like flicking a switch on going back to the old ways”.
“Social distancing will be with us for many months,” he said.