There are a record number of 70 confirmed Covid-19 patients in ICUs in Northern Ireland of whom 57 are on ventilators. 

The total number of people hospitalised with the virus is 842.

The Department of Health in the North has recorded a further 24 deaths linked to coronavirus, with 17 of these occurring during past 24 hours.

It takes the official death toll from Covid-19 there to 1,649.

Another 713 new infections were also reported, taking the cumulative total to 96,713.

The seven-day day average infection rate per 100,000 for Northern Ireland is 323.7.

Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon council remains highest on 591.5. Derry & Strabane, for long time the Covid hotspot, now lowest rate, 181.2.

There are currently 137 active outbreaks of the disease in Northern Ireland care homes.

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann revealed that a further delivery of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine had been delivered this morning.

"We now have the supply to complete [vaccinating] all our over 80s and when that group is finished, there will be enough to start into the over 75 programme. GPs already placing orders," he said on Twitter.

Mr Swann also reiterated his appeal to anyone with symptoms or has been diagnosed with Covid-19 to self-isolate at home.

"I appreciate fully that for many people the need to stay at home will involve considerable sacrifice not least in terms of coping with the feelings of loneliness or financial pressures."

He said a range of financial support may be available for short-term living expenses if those who have a positive Covid-19 diagnosis or are in self-isolation.

Also today, it was revealed that more than 4,000 fines have been issued by the Police Service of Northern Ireland to enforce coronavirus regulations.

There have also been more than 1,000 prohibition notices issued over gatherings which are restricted under rules aimed at stemming the spread of Covid-19.

The latest figures released by the PSNI show that 2,159 penalty notices, which carry a fine starting at £200, have been issued.

This replaced a previous penalty notice which carried a £60 fine, of which, 2,101 were issued.

Heftier penalties for breaching the regulations were agreed by the Stormont Executive on 8 October and came into force on 12 November.

Most of the newer penalty notice were issued in Belfast (888), followed by 262 in the Derry and Strabane council area and 257 in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon council area.

A total of 1,156 prohibition notices have been issued to private premises (924) and commercial premises (196) over gatherings.

There have also been 55 fines for £1,000 issued to people for failing to self-isolate and 57 penalty notices issued to businesses for breach of the regulations, which carry fines starting at £1,000 and rising up to £10,000. 

Meanwhile Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has said empty supermarket shelves there have nothing to do with Brexit.

He blamed the pre-Christmas shutdown at the Port of Dover over the highly infectious strain of Covid-19 for temporary interruptions in the flow of goods across the Irish Sea.

Additional reporting: PA