A further 16 coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded in Northern Ireland, with 13 occurring during the past 24 hours.

It takes the official Department of Health toll to 1,533 since the outbreak began.

There are also 973 new cases of Covid-19 from tests on 3,596 individuals. It takes the cumulative number of positive tests to 92,782.

There are 850 confirmed coronavirus patients in hospital, with 58 being treated in ICU, 44 of whom are on ventilators.

The average seven-day infection rate per 100,000 for Northern Ireland is 412.9.

The highest rate is in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon council area with 623.4, followed by Mid Ulster on 611.4, while the lowest is Ards and North Down with 231.2.


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Stormont ministers want to discuss travel locator forms with the Irish Government and improve the sharing of information.

First Minister Arlene Foster said quite a large number of people may have entered Northern Ireland via the Republic over the Christmas period.

"That does not equip us to deal with the isolation issue," she said, adding that sharing information puts everyone in a better position to deal with issues like virus mutations - such as the one detected recently in Brazil.

"We need to be ready to deal with all of these issues", she said.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "It has to happen as a matter of urgency and I regret that it has not happened before now."

The pre-departure test discussed by Stormont ministers will need to be taken within 72 hours.

Ms Foster also said the reproductive rate of the virus in Northern Ireland has declined to 0.7-0.9.

She said the number of hospital admissions was due to peak later this week or early next week, with intensive care admissions continuing to rise for another week or so.

"We have been able to break the pathways of transmission", she said. "We are all now partners in protecting people and preventing a greater loss of life.

"I find it unbelievable that people are still holding house parties when the rest of us are fighting hard to give the rest of us a chance to live."

Stormont's Health Minister has said Northern Ireland will start to feel the effects of the coronavirus vaccination from the spring.

More than 100,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered, with 91,419 people having received their first dose by Tuesday evening.

Robin Swann said the roll-out is making "good and steady progress".

Appearing at the Stormont health committee, Mr Swann described the vaccination programme as a "huge logistical challenge".

Care home residents and staff were the first priority group. Three quarters of care homes have had second doses.

"The vaccination of our frontline and health and social care workers is also well under way, and additional staff groups from the wider health and social care family, such as our community pharmacy, dentistry, independent domiciliary care workers, have been given access to these (vaccination) sites, and will be over the next few weeks," he said.

"I am confident we will see rapid progress through those first four groups recommended by JCVI for vaccination - care home residents and staff, the over 80s, health and social care workers, those aged 70 and over, as well as those who are classified as clinically extremely vulnerable."

Mr Swann said it is vital that even those who have been vaccinated continue to abide by coronavirus restrictions to help limit the spread of the virus.

"It will probably be early spring before we see the effects of the vaccination programme," he said.

"Until then, we need to do all that we can to protect ourselves, protect our loved ones, protect wider society and protect the health service, and at this critical juncture, there is still no room for complacency."