Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill has described Boris Johnson's plan to ease Covid restrictions in England as "reckless".

Ms O'Neill said there are no plans to end the use of face masks in Northern Ireland and she is "not prepared to go to the end of the line" with easing restrictions.

She said the Executive will be having discussions ahead of Thursday's meeting to consider what further measures can be relaxed.

The Prime Minister said this week that he is confident the majority of the remaining Covid restrictions in England can be lifted from July 19.

This will include making face masks voluntary and ending social distancing.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Ms O'Neill was asked if a similar approach would be considered for Northern Ireland.

She said: "In the first instance, we will not be following the Boris Johnson model; we are a locally elected Executive, we must take our own decisions in the people's best interests here.

"We will have some discussions over today and tomorrow in advance of Thursday's Executive, we will set out a programme of how we can remove some restrictions.

"We are still in a space where we need to be very careful. The Health Minister has made it very clear we are not in a position where we are able to remove face masks; I would support that."

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She added: "It is a case of trying to make steady progress, coming out of the restrictions as best we can, but I am not prepared to go to the end of the line yet because that is not where we are.

"I would be concerned, particularly for the people in England because of the route map that has been set out by Boris Johnson. In my opinion, I think it is a reckless approach.

"We will probably be able to set out a direction of travel for what the next couple of months will look like, but certainly it will not be everything."

Chief Medical Officer Michael McBride said this week that Northern Ireland has entered a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr McBride said: "We are in the fourth wave of this virus, there is no doubt about that. Numbers will increase rapidly and we can do things to slow that, we can continue to follow the public health advice, but most importantly now is the time to get the vaccine."

Meanwhile, a further 417 positive cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health said.

No deaths have been reported in the past 24 hours.

On Tuesday morning, there were 37 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom five were in intensive care.

To date 2,079,758 vaccinations have been administered in Northern Ireland.