Social distancing measures will stay in place as long as necessary – and could be “strengthened further if required”.
That was the message from Health Minister Robin Swann on Thursday as he called upon people to “stay at home this Easter”.
Mr Swann was speaking as the confirmed total number of deaths in Northern Ireland rose to 82.
With warm weather forecast, he pleaded with the general public to stay at home over the Easter holiday weekend.
And he stressed that those flouting public health advice have no right joining in the weekly applause for care workers, each Thursday at 8pm.
Said Minister Swann: “Please don’t be tempted into letting down your guard over Easter. Our health and social care staff are relying on us all to keep doing the right thing.
“The weekly Thursday night applause is so important and heartening, but it is not sufficient by itself. We have to keep following the social distancing restrictions. The vast majority of people are doing so, and I thank them for it.
“But I am urging the small majority ignoring the restrictions to think again for the sake of themselves and their loved ones. Don’t be a hypocrite tonight by applauding care workers and then letting them down by your actions.
“The social distancing measures will stay in place for as long as they are needed and will be strengthened further if required.
“They are starting to make an impact. However, it is still early days and there will be many difficult weeks and months ahead.”
The Minister concluded: “As we head into the Easter weekend, the message remains the same. Stay at home – do not go out unless it’s absolutely necessary. Keep your distance if you do have to leave your home. Keep washing your hands and keep fighting back against Covid-19.”