More than 2,000 positive cases of Covid-19 have been notified in Northern Ireland.
The latest figures on the Department of Health’s dashboard on Wednesday also included six further deaths, bringing the toll in the region to 1,311.
In total, 2,143 individuals tested positive for the virus in the previous 24-hour period.
This represents the highest daily case number in Northern Ireland since testing began and has been described by Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride as “extremely troubling”.
The Department of Health #COVID19 dashboard has been updated with latest data.
— Department of Health (@healthdpt) December 30, 2020
There has been 7,100 new cases of Covid-19 in the last seven days.
The dashboard also shows continuing pressures on hospitals, with a 96% occupancy rate.
As of Wednesday, there were 492 inpatients with Covid-19, of which 35 were being treated in intensive care units.
Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said they were “extremely troubling numbers”.
“We always knew there would be payback from the two weeks of relaxations that we had in the immediate run up to Christmas,” he told the BBC.
“There was some increase in mixing over the Christmas period and that’s understandable given the year that people have had, but those numbers are very concerning and sadly we’ll see a significant number of those work through to individuals who will be hospitalised, many of whom will get sick and sadly some of whom will die in the coming weeks.
“Our health service is going to come under very severe pressures on top of an already pressurised system and I am very concerned about what the next couple of weeks will look like.”
Dr McBride said the health service has surge plans in place which will see fewer elective procedures.
He said he expects to see case numbers peak in the coming days, and a peak in hospitalisations a week later, and a peak in intensive care cases in the week after that.
“We are going to have several pressure points on our hospital services up until the middle of January and then I think things will probably peak and will probably remain plateaued at that high level for quite a number of weeks on top of an already high level of activity.
“This is a wave on wave, we still have not got on top of the numbers from the last wave and we’re seeing very significant increases in numbers again.”
He added: “Everyone who has plans for New Year’s Eve, rethink those plans. Celebrate this New Year’s Eve within your household and with no other contacts outside your household.
“That’s what the regulations say and that’s what we all should be doing.”