Northern Ireland has recorded the highest number of daily cases of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.
On Friday, a further 7,215 positive cases were notified by the Department of Health
One further patient who had previously tested positive for the virus has died.
Amid growing concern over the spread of the Omicron variant in Northern Ireland, health minister Robin Swann urged people to limit their contacts over coming days.
He said: “Traditionally this is a time when we look forward with hope and optimism.
“This year we will do the same but that must be tempered by continued caution and awareness that our actions will play a massive part in how we move forward in the weeks and months ahead.
“We have seen here and across the world that Omicron is presenting us with an increased level of challenge in terms of its level of transmissibility and the spiralling levels of infection within the community.
“This is a time when everyone can play a crucially important part in protecting ourselves, those we care for and our essential health services which are under unrelenting pressure.”
“Each of us can make a difference by making the right choices. Let’s limit our contacts, prioritise those people who mean most to us and take all the precautions we can before we meet.”
Mr Swann added: “I know we are all tired and weary after two long years of making great sacrifices and being denied the sort of lives and freedoms which we all took for granted.
“I also know that working together will bring the time closer when we can emerge together from this pandemic.”
Those who leave self-isolation on or after day seven are strongly advised to limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces
Dr Elizabeth Mitchell
Meanwhile, new rules which reduce the self-isolation period for confirmed Covid cases from 10 to seven days, subject to a negative lateral flow test on day six and a second negative test taken at least 24 hours later on day seven, have been introduced in Northern Ireland.
Dr Elizabeth Mitchell, director of contact tracing service at the Public Health Agency said: “This means those infected with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland can stop self-isolating up to three days early if they test negative on two consecutive days.
“Those who leave self-isolation on or after day seven are strongly advised to limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, and minimise contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected.”