Northern Ireland could be looking at strict measures being imposed to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
Health Minister Robin Swann said the Northern Ireland Executive would meet on Thursday to make decisions.
The Minister also slammed “keyboard warriors” and “social media experts” who played down the threat from coronavirus and branded it scaremongering.
Minister Swann also said that the situation was so bad that if we were another country we would impose restrictions on anyone entering from Northern Ireland.
Chief Scientific Officer Professor Ian Young told the daily briefing: “There is no part of Northern Ireland which has not experienced the spread of the virus in the past week.”
And the Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said we had “reached if not surpassed” the point where other jurisdictions were imposing restrictions.
He said we “are at a crossroads individually and collectively and as a society we have some stark choices to make”.
Health Minister Swann said there had been a “disturbing increase” in Covid-19 cases.
And he continued: “Tomorrow’s Executive meeting will therefore have recommendations from my Department on the tightening of some restrictions.
“Decisions will be required on whether these measures will apply to Northern Ireland as a whole or to more localised areas with higher rates of prevalence of Covid-19.
“I don’t want to preempt the Executive’s decision today, but I am confident that Ministers will agree with me on the need for action.
“The figures attest that the time has come that we need to introduce measures to limit contact between people.
“Any interventions however will have to be balanced, proportionate and subject to ongoing review as they have been.
“The facts are clear. Our case numbers have been rising sharply, so too have the number of positive tests from our testing system.
“And today if you look at our dashboard you will see more people of an older age are beginning to test positive.
“By now we are all acutely aware of the particular dangers of that and the implications for our loved ones.
“We have reached or even passed the stage where neighbouring jurisdictions have imposed localised restructions.
“To be blunt, if a foreign country had our figures we would be imposing quarantine on anyone returning from us.
“So we have hard calls to make. I don’t want to restrict anyone’s freedom, I know how tough the last six months have been. I supported the easing of restrictions in the summer, not just to open up the economy and society but for the sake of people’s mental and physical health.
“But I have also cautioned that non-compliance over social-distancing could bring us to where we are now.”
Minister Swann said that “thankfully hospital admissions remain low at present” but asked: “What are the chances of that remaining the case?”
He spoke of the “strong likelihood” of the spread to the medically vulnerable when it slips through the many layers of protection and gets into our care homes and hospital wards.
Minister Swann added: “Society came together earlier this year to protect the NHS and help save lives. Once again I’m asking for everyone’s support. If we take steps now to strictly comply with the public health message as well as those that may come tomorrow we may be able to avoid the need for more drastic restrictions down the line.”
He continued: “Covid-19 still remains an incredibly serious public health emergency. To all those people who are saying that’s it going to be grand, or that things are being blown out of proportion, you’re wrong.
“If they were to knock the door of any family who had lost a loved one, or speak to a nurse who has held the hand of a person in their final moments on a hospital ward, they would quickly realise how selfish their contributions really are.
“But I acknowledge that with a constantly evolving situation it’s not easy. So if people want the latest facts please look to the official sources. Earlier on in this pandemic I urged people not to be distracted by self-appointed experts on social media.
“It became clear there are different and legitimate viewpoints about how to fight Covid-19. There are many unknowns still about this virus. But no one has a monopoly on truth or wisdom.”
He slammed the “conspiracy theorists” with their stories pertaining to vaccines and face coverings, and hit out at the “keyboard warriors who sit safely at home and make bogus claims about scaremongering”.
Mr Swann said Covid-19 “remains a life and death issue” and he would make no apology for urging people to stay safe and cautious.