The top medics from Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic have issued a joint stay-at-home plea.
Dr Michael McBride and Dr Tony Holohan say they are “gravely concerned” about the “unsustainably high level of Covid-19 infection” across the island.
The chief medical officers warned it is having a “significant impact” on the health of the population as well as the “safe functioning” of the healthcare systems.
JOINT STATEMENT: Chief Medical Officers in Northern Ireland and Ireland have voiced their concerns about the high levels of #COVID19 on the island of Ireland and are urging everyone to #StayAtHome— Department of Health (@roinnslainte) January 15, 2021
Statement available here: https://t.co/hmZH02297O pic.twitter.com/LTXtoWADXi
The joint statement came on Friday amid tension between the Stormont Executive and Irish Government over data sharing.
First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the Republic was failing to share information on travellers arriving on the island.
Some 44 deaths with Covid and 4,928 further cases of the virus were confirmed across the island on Thursday.
Hospitals on both sides of the border remain under pressure, with 1,789 Covid inpatients in ROI and 850 in NI.
Chief Medical Officers in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have voiced their concerns about the high levels of #COVID19 and are urging everyone to #StayAtHome— Department of Health (@healthdpt) January 15, 2021
Read more â¡ï¸ https://t.co/we3wPVhGoJ pic.twitter.com/qKkITYMTLc
Dr McBride and Dr Holohan said the number of people in hospital is likely to rise further.
“Unfortunately, due to the surge of infections we have experienced over the past few weeks, we have seen an increase in mortality figures and our health systems have been placed under immense pressure,” they said.
“We are likely to see ongoing increases in hospitalisations, ICU admissions and mortality in the weeks ahead.”
Earlier, Translink announced a reduction in its cross-border train service in line with the latest lockdown restrictions.
Both chief medical officers strongly urged everyone to stay at home except for essential reasons, and to avoid all unnecessary journeys.
“Many of the patients admitted to hospital in January have been under the age of 65 years,” the CMOs said.
“Covid-19 can affect us all, regardless of age or underlying condition. It highlights the need for us all to protect one another by staying at home.
“Not only will you keep yourself and your loved ones safe, but also help to save lives and avoid more preventable Covid-19 admissions to our currently struggling healthcare systems.
“We will continue to work together to protect public health across the island, as we have done throughout this pandemic, but we need everyone to play their part by staying at home and protecting themselves and their communities.”