An additional 16 people have died from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, while another 759 were confirmed to have tested positive on Monday.
The number of confirmed cases in the region is doubling at a slower rate over the last seven days compared with the doubling rate in the seven days before that, official analysis said.
It follows the imposition of tough lockdown measures after Christmas.
The total of Covid-19 hospital admissions in Northern Ireland over the last seven days has risen to 488, compared with 425 the previous week, the North’s department of health said.
The number of inpatients at midnight was 736 compared with 722 seven days ago. Covid-19 intensive care units are 85 per cent full.
The number of daily admissions of confirmed cases is around double what it was at the height of the peak last spring.
The incoming weeks will be the most challenging in many medical workers’ careers, the director of nursing at the South Eastern Health Trust, Dr David Robinson has said.
Hospitals across Northern Ireland are preparing for the third surge of the coronavirus pandemic — which is expected to be the worst.
The Southern and Northern Health Trusts recorded the greatest numbers in hospital. As part of its surge plan, the South Eastern Trust has closed most of its outpatient services, with the exception of time-critical emergency patients and maternity appointments.
We have no doubt that across the region these incoming weeks are going to be extremely challenging
Dr Robinson said the trust is maximising the number of critical care beds it has at the Ulster Hospital and supporting colleagues across Northern Ireland.
“The ask of us is the same as everyone else and so we’re meeting with colleagues in Belfast and across the region daily,” he said.
Director of nursing Nicki Patterson said she has been nursing for 37 years and anticipates that the coming weeks will be the most challenging of her career.
“For ourselves in South Eastern we are not perhaps feeling just the extent of the pressure that our colleagues in some other trusts are feeling, we have no doubt that across the region these incoming weeks are going to be extremely challenging,” she said.
The South Eastern Health Trust is expecting to reach the peak of the third coronavirus surge in the coming week.
Ms Patterson reassured those unable to visit loved ones in hospital that staff will be there for them.
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“When those families can’t be there, we will be, and particularly for people who may be coming to the end of their life, we will be here, we will be with them and we will be holding their hands,” she said.
Ms Patterson also paid tribute to their staff as “remarkable”.
“Staff have been amazing, we have been working shoulder to the wheel for months and now we are asking more of staff again. That’s difficult for everyone and we cannot thank our staff enough for the degree to which they have got behind us through this very difficult period,” she said.
“There is no doubt it is exhausting, wearing personal protection for long shifts is physically tiring, it is dehydrating, staff find they are very thirsty. Then from an emotional point of view, many staff will speak very articulately about their personal experiences through this journey of being with people at the end.”