Covid-19: Robin Swann warns of intense two-week lockdowns if cases continue to rise
Health Minister Robin Swann has said "intense" lockdown measures could be introduced if the spread of coronavirus in not brought under control in Northern Ireland.
Mr Swann warned that localised lockdowns could be enacted for two-week periods if advised by public health officials.
Speaking to the BBC this morning, he said: "I don't think anything's off the table."
It is believed the proposed fortnightly lockdowns could be regularly imposed and lifted when deemed necessary by the Executive.
Mr Swann acknowledged public opinion may be against further lockdown measures but said following government advice on hygiene and wearing face masks would help prevent them being introduced.
"This is actually in our hands," he said. "It was in our hands back through the summertime when people observed the simple messages we are putting out; good hand hygiene, good respiratory hygiene, social distancing, face coverings - all that worked for us a few months ago. It can work for us now.
"What I'm asking people is please re-engage with that messaging because that's what prevents us from having to take those steps."
Mr Swann said the restrictions introduced in March during the first wave of Covid-19 were "draconian" but "they worked".
"I don't want to be the one who takes away any freedoms," he said.
The health minister was critical of those who have railed against the public health message, including the wearing of face masks in shops.
"There will always be naysayers, there will always be those who undermine a political message or a health message for the sake of their own ego or their own position. That's dangerous," he said.
Mr Swann warned against spreading misinformation regarding Covid-19 and stressed that a second general lockdown across the north could be avoided.
"I don't want to start a fear factor, I don't want to start a panic of people reacting 'oh we're going to go into lockdown in three weeks time', that's not neccesary," he said.
"The message is if you work with us now, reengage with the actions you took in the earliest part of this year, we can prevent those further restrictions across the whole of Northern Ireland."
Mr Swann was speaking as new coronavirus restrictions were extended to parts of Co Armagh.
Earlier today, statistics released by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency showed that the deaths of 887 people in the north have been linked to Covid-19 since the pandemic began.