The Taoiseach has urged British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to give the Stormont Executive extra financial support to cover the cost of tougher Covid-19 restrictions.

Micheál Martin raised concerns about the Covid-19 situation in Northern Ireland with Mr Johnson in a telephone call this morning.

It comes as the Department of Health there reported 923 new cases of the virus in the last 24 hours.

Some 4,674 cases have been reported in the last seven days, bringing the overall total number of cases confirmed in the region to 17,110.

One further death has been reported by the department, bringing the toll to 587.

During the leaders' discussion, there was an emphasis on achieving as much cooperation as possible to tackle rising Covid-19 cases on both sides of the border.

Mr Martin said he asked Mr Johnson to provide additional support, including financial support to Northern Ireland Executive should it decide to impose extra coronavirus restrictions.

He said he did not discuss the possibility of an island wide 'circuit breaker' with the Prime Minister, but expressed his concern about rising case numbers in the North.

Speaking about the phone call, Mr Johnson's official spokesman said: "It wasn't a call about any aspects of Brexit.

"It was about the response to Covid and ensuring that the United Kingdom Government and the Irish Government can work closely together on helping to combat the spread of the virus on the island of Ireland." 

Mr Martin also spoke to Stormont's First and Deputy First Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill about the issue on Monday evening.

A hike in coronavirus fines and extending the places where face coverings are mandatory are being considered by Stormont ministers.

Justice Minister Naomi Long is due to present the outcome of a rapid review into penalties and enforcement of the Covid-19 regulations at the meeting.

It is understood a proposal to increase the fine that accompanies a fixed-penalty notice for a rule breach from £60 to £200.

The Executive Office is also due to present proposals around extending the public settings where face coverings should be mandatory.

If agreed, this would see the law widened to cover places such as office spaces, banks and building societies.

Coverings are already mandatory in shops and on public transport.

The rate of coronavirus infection in Northern Ireland is more than twice the level in the Republic.

There were 828 new cases yesterday, which based on population size, is the equivalent of more than 2,000 in the Republic.

The Stormont Executive has asked the British government to provide extra finance to support business if it toughens regulations.

On Twitter, Michelle O'Neill said: " As joint heads of government we have asked again for an urgent conversation with Boris Johnson. It is clear that our situation is worsening at an alarming rate. We are past the point of warnings. We need financial support for families, workers and businesses immediately."

In the absence of such additional funding, it is unlikely to extend tightened restrictions introduced in Derry and Strabane last week.

Those measures are broadly similar to Level 3 in the Republic.

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Meanwhile, Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has said opportunities were missed in Northern Ireland to put robust testing and tracing systems in place during the first large scale shutdown. 

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Prof McKee said had a robust "find, test, trace and isolate" support system been established outbreaks could be properly investigated, "rather than just the model of forward tracing".

He said, "Germany and Taiwan have been backwards tracing; To follow everybody up and find out what the common link was and identify the sources. This clearly did not happen in Northern Ireland." 

Prof McKee said a "circuit breaker" strategy is now necessary in Northern Ireland.

"The benefit with a circuit breaker is with exponential growth it is a simple mathematical formula. If you can stop it spreading for a while you really are buying time." 

But he added, it is important not do employ this strategy in isolation.

"You don't just do these things and then go back to normal. This should be an opportunity to sort out what went wrong with the finding, testing and tracing." 

Prof McKee said Northern Ireland seems to be experiencing a problem with adherence to social distancing guidelines and the use of face coverings. 

He said that after he speaks to the media in Northern Ireland, he experiences "vitriolic attacks on social media".

"There seems to be a prominent minority of people who are anti-vaccination and anti any measure." 

Additional reporting Mícheál Lehane, PA