HEALTH Minister Robin Swann is due to update the Stormont Executive later today on the mounting pressures on hospitals in the North of Ireland.
It follows what was called the worst 48 hours since the pandemic began.
The Department of Health reported on Monday that there were 16 further deaths and 759 new cases of COVID-19 across the North of Ireland in the previous 24 hours.
The six local health trusts have warned that by the third week of January, hospitals could be dealing with double the number of Covid patients.
On Monday, First Minister Arlene Foster said there were few options left to curb the current crisis, apart from a possible new curfew.
Mrs Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said while the North of Ireland was past the peak of new cases, the lag between people becoming infected and needing hospital treatment meant inpatient numbers were yet to hit their peak.
Speaking on Monday, Mrs Foster said that the latest modelling showed NI’s R-number was sitting at about 1.1-1.2.
That is a drop from an estimated 1.8 earlier in January.
Mrs Foster said things were “moving in the right direction” with a reduction in the number of positive cases, but warned everyone needed to “ready themselves” for strain on the health service in the next few weeks.
The chief scientific advisor said that while compliance with the stay-at-home message was better than it was at the start of December, it is not as good as it was in the first lockdown in March.
At Tuesday’s executive meeting, ministers are also expected to crack down on large retailers who are keeping open the non-essential side of their businesses.
Amid pressures on the health service, health trusts have said more cancer operations could be cancelled.