Northern Ireland could be recording 600 new coronavirus infections a day in a month’s time, the chief scientific adviser has warned.
The number is predicted to double every 10 days in a major onslaught on the health service if nothing is done.
Professor Ian Young said a “circuit breaker” lockdown of up to three weeks may interrupt the virus’s spread but was not recommending that happens immediately.
“We are sitting at 150 cases a day at the moment,” he said.
“In four weeks I would expect us to be, if nothing was done, I would expect us to be at at least 500-600 cases a day.”
He told the BBC’s Nolan Show it was not easy to translate the number of diagnoses into predicted deaths.
“Even one death is a death too many and we know that there would certainly be deaths,” he added.
His comments came as a secondary school in Co Tyrone closed after a number of confirmed cases of Covid-19.
Holy Cross College in Strabane announced the closure on Wednesday morning.
On Sunday, the school said two members of the school community had tested positive for coronavirus. A deep clean was undertaken in response.
On Wednesday, the school, which educates around 1,550 boys and girls, said a further two cases had been confirmed.
In a Facebook post, the college said: “Unfortunately the school has had to close at very short notice this morning due to two further confirmed cases in the school community.”
Pubs that do not serve food are reopening across Northern Ireland on Wednesday, despite fresh Covid-19 restrictions.
They are welcoming back customers a day after additional restrictions limiting domestic gatherings were imposed aimed at curbing spiralling infection rates.
Restrictions on households were extended across the region on Tuesday evening.
There can be no mixing of households indoors, with some exemptions, while no more than six people from two households can meet in a garden.
Previously, the measures only applied to Belfast and Ballymena in Co Antrim.
Reopening of so-called wet pubs was pushed back on several occasions by the Executive, while those that serve food were able to lift shutters at the start of July.
Northern Ireland’s leaders acknowledged on Tuesday that Stormont’s latest Covid-19 messaging had become confused.
A quick update on discussions this morning with the Prime Minister and colleagues from across the U.K. pic.twitter.com/ZdBZuuC7wZ
— Arlene Foster #We’llMeetAgain (@DUPleader) September 22, 2020
First Minister Arlene Foster said the measures do not represent a second lockdown but should act as a wake-up call.
She and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill sounded the alarm as they called for a big push to curb the rising number of infections.