NI lockdown likely to last beyond February 6

The latest lockdown that is in place across Northern Ireland is likely to last beyond February 6. Credit: UTV

Northern Ireland's chief medical officer has said the latest lockdown is likely to last beyond February 6.

Dr Michael McBride said restrictions will be required for a "considerable number of months."

"I'm not certain that we will be emerging from lockdown in February, I think that would be optimistic in the extreme, we have a long long way to go with this virus," the chief medical officer said.

"We are in the most difficult and challenging time of the year where we know that respiratory viruses circulate more readily, I don't think any of us can be anticipating a return to normality come February 6.

"We will require restrictions to be in place yet until such times as we have more members of the population who are extremely vulnerable vaccinated."

The Executive introduced tougher restrictions and a stay at home message due to rising cases numbers of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.

First Minister Arlene Foster praised "many people doing the right thing" for a drop in the reproductive rate of the virus from 1.8 last week to around 1.1

She said the vaccination programme rollout gives "light at the end of the tunnel" but warned the "route back to normality" will take many months.

Ms Foster appeared at a joint press conference with Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill on Tuesday for the first time in more than a month.

The joint leaders are set to meet with representatives of the retail sector.

They were also set to speak with PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne on Tuesday evening around enforcement.

Tuesday saw a further 1,205 cases of Covid-19 reported as well as 22 deaths of people who tested positive for the virus.

Hospitals remain under pressure with 785 inpatients with Covid, 55 of whom are in intensive care and 38 on mechanical ventilation

Almost 100,000 vaccinations have been administered in the region to elderly care home residents, care home workers, those over 80 and health staff.

The next phase, which includes those aged over 75 and the extremely clinically vulnerable is set to begin in February.

Arlene Foster urged the public to make "simple everyday choices" such as phoning family and friends rather than visiting, doing one big food shop and not unnecessarily going into the workplace.