Fears are mounting that people across Northern Ireland are putting themselves at risk of life-changing injuries or even death by not ringing 999 when suffering stroke symptoms amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Stroke Association is urging anyone who is experiencing stroke symptoms to seek emergency medical attention despite the spread of coronavirus across Northern Ireland.
Barry Macaulay, the charity's Northern Ireland director, told the Belfast Telegraph: "The fear of contracting the virus or feeling like a burden on the health service might be the main reason putting people off seeking treatment.
"But I am reassured that the health service is well equipped to treat both stroke and coronavirus.
"The best thing for you and our health service, is to call 999 and say you, or the person in front of you, is having a stroke.
"Equally concerning is people who experience mini-stroke and then dismiss it as 'just a funny-turn'.
"A mini-stroke is a warning that a major stroke is on its way, so you shouldn't ignore the signs, and you need to seek help."
Latest figures from Public Health England showed attendance at emergency departments in England has dropped by over a third (34.5%) on the same week last year, from 136,669 to 89,584.
Latest figures from Public Health Scotland report attendance at emergency departments has dropped by over a third (40.1%) on the same week last year.
While equivalent figures are not yet available for Northern Ireland, the Stroke Association and senior stroke clinicians expect that a similar trend will occur here, if it is not already happening.
As a result, the Stroke Association has said it is concerned that people are delaying accessing vital treatment when experiencing stroke symptoms, which include sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, difficulty speaking or finding words, sudden blurred vision or loss of sight in one or both eyes, sudden memory loss or confusion, dizziness, a sudden fall, or a sudden and severe headache.
"Now, more than ever, during this pandemic we must remain focused on making and keeping stroke a priority here in Northern Ireland and across the UK," added Mr Macaulay.
In Northern Ireland, more than 4,000 people have a stroke every year.
However, rapid access to treatments can reduce the damage caused to the brain.