Northern Ireland is expected to reach the peak of the Omicron wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the next two weeks, the chief medical officer said.
Sir Michael McBride said the number of cases “will increasingly become a less reliable indicator” of the extent of the outbreak in this wave.
“We have seen a significant change in the behavior of the tests, we have made some changes to our testing strategy by removing the requirements for confirmatory PCR tests, but it is really important that people always report their positive lateral flow tests. because it’s important for contact tracing, ”he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster.
“I think the real peak we’re going to see probably in the next two weeks, the next two weeks.
“I think the numbers will be much higher than what we are actually reporting and are much higher than what we are reporting now.
“It is important to keep in mind that hospital pressures continue to increase and that we will see a peak in pressure towards the end of January and beginning of February.
“There is a long and difficult time ahead for our health service and we can all play our part in getting vaccinated, being reminded and protecting the health service. “
Asked whether Northern Ireland had the worst infection rate in the UK, Sir Michael said the comparison of regions is complicated, pointing out that there are more tests in Northern Ireland than in the rest of UK.
“We test more people in Northern Ireland than in any other part of the UK, we’ve been doing this for some time … we test more people in Northern Ireland compared to the Republic of Ireland, and clearly more you test people, the more cases you detect. because obviously a third of cases are asymptomatic, ”he said.
More than 7,000 other confirmed cases of the virus were reported over the weekend.
Seven other deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 have also been recorded.
Some 58,000 new cases of the virus have been reported in Northern Ireland since the start of 2022, more than the total for the first six months of 2021.
Sir Michael also urged everyone, especially those aged 50 and over, to get vaccinated.
He said use of the vaccine had slowed since Christmas.
“The best thing that each of us can do to make sure that we stay well, that we protect our families and that we alleviate some of the pressures on our health services, is to get vaccinated”, a- he declared.
“The vaccine is really, really important and the booster is really, really important to make sure that if you have symptoms and you get infected the disease is much milder.”