DUBLIN (Reuters) - Northern Ireland reported 934 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, more than double the previous record daily total registered two days ago in the British-run region.
Northern Ireland's chief medical officer had earlier described the surge in cases in the last two weeks as extremely worrying and advised the public to prepare for a potential second, shorter lockdown.
"This is an extremely and deeply worrying time, we're seeing a rapidly deteriorating situation in terms of the number of new cases, but also the number of admissions to hospital and intensive care units," Michael McBride told BBC radio.
"We could be back to wave one numbers of people in our hospitals with COVID-19 as early as three weeks from now. We have a very, very short window of opportunity to put in place sadly wider restrictions to stop the spread of this virus."
The smallest of the UK's four nations tightened restrictions on household gatherings last month and introduced tougher curbs in the border region of Derry City and Strabane on Thursday, due to a rate of infection at least twice as high as anywhere else.
However pubs that only serve drinks were allowed to reopen in Northern Ireland last week for the first time since March and told to close at 11 p.m. local time, later than the stricter 10 p.m. time introduced in England, Wales and Scotland.
McBride said Northern Ireland would to look at options including a so-called "circuit breaker", a short, intensive period of lockdown to get the virus under control.
Northern Ireland's seven-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 population shot up to 139.4, from 69.5 a week ago, after Friday's record increase, health department data showed.
The UK as a whole reported its highest single daily number of cases to date earlier this week and infections are also rising across the open border in Ireland, but not at the same rate as Northern Ireland.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Alex Richardson)