Northern Ireland’s coronavirus lockdown is to be extended until 9 May, Arlene Foster has said.

The first minister said the executive had taken its decision after a lengthy meeting on Wednesday.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said now was the time to “dig in, to stay strong and save lives”.

The announcement came as six more people diagnosed with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland died in hospital in the past 24 hours.

It brings the number of hospital deaths in NI to 140.

Since Tuesday, there have been 121 new confirmed cases – the total number of confirmed cases in Northern Ireland is 2,088, with 13,672 individuals tested.

The first minister said as Northern Ireland remained in the first wave of the virus, it was important to do “everything we can to reduce the peak”.

It is understood the executive’s decision on whether to continue the lockdown beyond the next three weeks will be reviewed by 9 May, based on the data.

According to the government’s coronavirus legislation, the need for restrictions must be reviewed at least once every 21 days, with the first review to be carried out by 16 April.

Ms O’Neill said she understood the measures were “severe” but that the public was only being asked to comply with them to save lives.

“Our biggest danger in this period is complacency. The measures are showing positive results but if we relax our behaviour, we will be in danger,” said the deputy first minister.

She added that as soon as the first wave of the virus is deemed to have passed, the executive would review its decision around restrictions.

Ms O’Neill said Northern Ireland was “still in the surge period”.

Scotland and Wales have both said their lockdowns are set to be extended, while First Secretary of State Dominic Raab said the UK government did not expect to make any changes this week.

The Republic of Ireland has already extended its lockdown until 5 May.

From Friday, figures for the number of deaths in non-hospital settings are to be released.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) said that, where possible, its weekly report would also state if the deaths took place in care homes.

Earlier, Health Minister Robin Swann said the Covid-19 modelling group’s work indicated the impact of the virus may now be “less severe in the first wave than we had feared”,

He told the Northern Ireland Assembly that while the majority of people in Northern Ireland were continuing to follow social distancing measures, modelling was by no means a certainty of what would happen next with the virus and he warned against complacency.

Modelling had suggested there could be 3,000 deaths in the first wave in Northern Ireland.

In other developments:

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