A seventh patient who had tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland has died.

It comes as Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer says he believes "many thousands" of people there have contracted the virus.

There are currently 209 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.

At a press conference this afternoon, Dr Michael McBride said he believes the actual figure is much higher, and runs to "many thousands".

He said the health service north of the border will significantly increase its rate of testing next week, moving from around 40 per day to 1,000.

In today's daily update, the Public Health Agency said there were 37 confirmed new cases of the virus there following 383 tests.

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It comes as employers in Northern Ireland have been warned they will be forced to close if they do not follow social distancing guidelines in their workplaces.

The warning from the Stormont Executive came after a number of workers at two food production companies in Co Armagh staged temporary walkouts over virus safety concerns.

In a press conference this afternoon, First Minister Arlene Foster said it had become clear that some businesses were operating without the necessary social distancing and good practice being adopted.

"That is not acceptable," she added.

"So let me make it clear, if you are still operating and some of your employees must be in work because they cannot work from home, then you must facilitate social distancing in the workplace, you must provide your staff with the appropriate protection equipment."

She said Northern Ireland's Health and Safety Executive has been instructed to ensure that employers are following the appropriate health and safety practices .

The DUP leader said it was time for employers and employees to work together to protect lives.

"Be under no illusion, " she added.

"Under the emergency legislation, if you don't get your act together on social distancing the Executive will have no option but to take enforcement action against you."

That message was reinforced by Deputy First Minster Michelle O'Neill.

Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland said she was also aware of reports that people were being forced to work in conditions where social distancing was not being operated.

She cited an example of construction workers continuing to travel together in vans.

"If You cannot make provision for safe working practices then you should not be operating, " she said.

"You’re compromising not just your workers’ health, but you’re compromising our response to this crisis."

In a message to the owners of businesses in the construction and manufacturing sectors, she said it was "time to get real" and warned that they need to act now.

"If you don't take action yourself we will move in and we will close you down.." she said.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has said that prisoner releases in Northern Ireland should be considered during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Justice has confirmed that 163 prison officers in Northern Ireland are self-isolating due to Covid-19.

Inside the jails, prisoners with symptoms have been moved into isolation units.

Amnesty International has urged Justice Minister Naomi Long to consider releasing some prisoners at heightened risk from the virus.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International UK's Northern Ireland programme director, said prisoners with underlying medical conditions and the elderly should be immediately considered for alternatives to detention if they do not pose a threat to themselves or society.

"And there should be a presumption of release for people charged with a criminal offence who are awaiting trial," he said.

"Government should also consider amending sentencing guidance for judges to recommend non-custodial measures for people who have been convicted of lesser criminal offences.

"Decreasing the prison population and the number of people in immigration detention centres, such as Larne House, is a crucial means of slowing the spread of Covid-19 and keeping people safe."

Mr Corrigan continued: "Those shown to have an underlying health condition making them more susceptible to the effects of the virus should be considered for release on bail immediately, as should any vulnerable detainees and prisoners who don't pose a risk to society.

"It is important that the concerns of victims are taken into consideration and help inform decisions regarding releases.

"For those who remain in detention, the authorities must provide a standard of health that meets each person's individual needs, ensuring the maximum possible protection against the spread of Covid-19."

Additional reporting: PA