The Delta variant of Covid-19 is "taking its toll" on Northern Ireland, as the highest ever daily figure for new cases was recorded today.

2,397 new cases of the virus and a further 9 deaths were reported today.

The Minister for Health Robin Swann said the latest figures were "deeply concerning" and that the Delta variant of the virus is "taking its toll on Northern Ireland".

Mr Swann said it's now vital that as many citizens as possible are vaccinated

A major campaign to boost vaccination numbers in Northern Ireland will take place over the next few days.

The Big Jab Weekend will be the last chance for adults over 18 to get their first dose at walk-in mass vaccination centres.

Around 86% of adults in Northern Ireland have received their first dose of the vaccine.

Health Minister Robin Swann said reaching another 5% could cut the numbers of people being admitted to hospitals with Covid-19 in half.

Northern Ireland is currently amid another wave of the virus, and Wednesday saw the highest number of Covid-19 related deaths since February.

More than 360,000 people have been vaccinated at the SSE Arena.

Tanya Daly, clinical lead for the Covid-19 vaccination programme for the South Eastern Trust, said they are delighted by the numbers so far but urged the final people who have not yet been jabbed to come forward.

"We started small and we grew it ... on one occasion we delivered nearly 5,000 vaccines in one day and we hit that on several days but that wouldn't have happened if the people hadn't come forward," she said.

"As well as protecting yourself and others, this has helped to open up Northern Ireland.

"We're at the stage now where people can sit in restaurants beside each other, we couldn't do that a year ago and we need to remember that, that's because of the vaccine, it's because people came forward and got vaccinated.

"If you're nervous at all, please come forward. Any questions or queries you have, the NI Direct website can answer those queries or direct you to the right place.

Consultant anaesthetist Craig Renfrew has been providing medical support and advice to the vaccine programme at the SSE Arena and across the South Eastern Trust.

More than 500,000 vaccines have been delivered in the South Eastern Trust area, including 361,113 at the SSE Arena.

Mr Renfrew described it as one of the biggest challenges of his medical career.

"We have provided them in a safe way, anybody who has had side effects we have looked after but the vast majority, over 99% of patients have very little long-term effects," he said.

Mr Renfrew said in the last two weeks, capacity in the health service has had to be reduced again due to Covid cases.

"For example instead of there being eight or nine theatres running all day during the week in the Ulster Hospital, we are down to four," he said, adding staff are exhausted but were prepared for another surge of cases.

Latest figures on deaths linked to Covid-19

Meanwhile, the latest analysis from statisticians recorded 34 deaths linked to Covid-19 in Northern Ireland in the latest week.

The fatalities happened in the week 7-13 August, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

The latest figure takes the total number of coronavirus-linked deaths recorded by Nisra to 3,100.

The Nisra figure is drawn from different data sources than the toll reported by Stormont's Department of Health.

It is always higher than the department's total, as it provides a broader picture of the impact of Covid-19. The statistics agency reports its Covid-19 data with a week lag.

The Department of Health's death toll stood at 2,247 on 13 August.

The department's statistics focus primarily on hospital deaths and only include people who have tested positive for the virus.

Nisra obtains its data from death certificates on which Covid-19 is recorded as a factor by a medical professional, regardless of where the death took place or whether the patient tested positive.

Of the 3,100 deaths recorded by Nisra by 13 August, 2,062 (66.5%) occurred in hospitals, 791 (25.5%) in care homes, 14 (0.5%) in hospices and 233 (7.5%) at residential addresses or other locations.

Nisra reported that, up to 13 August, the deaths of 1,035 care-home residents were linked to Covid-19.

The figure includes deaths that occurred in care homes and care home residents who died in hospital, having been taken there for treatment.

Care home residents make up about 33% of deaths linked to Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, according to Nisra.

In the week to 13 August, 40 coronavirus-linked deaths were officially registered in Northern Ireland.

This is a slightly different figure from the death occurrence number.

Some of the fatalities registered in the week 7-13 August could have occurred before that week, as deaths can take a number of days to register.

Those aged 75 and over accounted for 75% of the 3,086 Covid-19 related deaths registered between 19 March 2020 and 13 August 2021.

With reporting from PA