Parties to mark New Year’s Eve in Northern Ireland could be “super-spreader” events for coronavirus, Health Minister Robin Swann has warned.
In a message issued on Monday, he urged people to stay at home this week to prevent the spread of the virus.
He said he was asking people to “play their part” by not visiting friends during what was a “crucial period”.
Northern Ireland is into the third day of a six week lockdown, with strict restrictions in place.
“We need a huge collective effort against virus,” said Mr Swann as he called on people to reduce their contact with others.
“This will save lives and ease the pressures on our health service at this most challenging time,” he said.
During the first week of the lockdown no gatherings – indoor or outdoor – are permitted between 20:00 GMT and 06:00 each day.
The health minister said a New Year’s Eve house party “would not just be against the law”.
He added: “It could be a super-spreader event, could leave people very seriously ill and could even cost lives.”
The minister said it was crucial that people to adhere to the Covid-19 restrictions this week and throughout the remainder of the lockdown.
“Please stay at home as much as possible. Please don’t be tempted to visit friends this week.
“We need a concerted and united push in the next few months to get us to a better place.”