Young people attending summer gatherings are behind a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections as the spread of the Delta variant continues, the North's Public Health Agency (PHA) has warned.
Latest figures on Tuesday show 762 confirmed or probable cases of the more infectious mutant strain across all 11 council areas in the North, up from 612 last week.
Newry, Mourne and Down (199), Derry City and Strabane (156) and the Causeway Coast and Glens (89) are the worst impacted areas.
Meanwhile, 351 additional cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the Republic on Tuesday, the Department of Health said. There are 16 people in ICU and 46 in hospital.
Dr Gerry Waldron, head of health protection at the PHA, blamed a "sharp increase" in overall Covid-19 cases on a number of "social events" attended by young people in north Down and east Belfast last week.
And, he warned, cases will "likely follow in the next few weeks in south Belfast, Hillsborough, Comber, Bangor and the Ards peninsula through previous and new social links".
"Unfortunately we have in recent days seen an increase in cases in the younger age group," he said. "This is a group which is less likely to have received both doses of the vaccine, and with the increasing number of Delta cases in Northern Ireland, which we know to be much more transmissible, we are urging everyone to be sensible, enjoy the summer months, but do so safely.
“Over the next few days there will be temptation to get out and enjoy the warm weather and celebrate, but if we see large numbers gathering or people abandoning public health advice we could see a sharp increase in cases, so we all need to act with caution.”
The PHA said it was investigating the circumstances surrounding the sharp rise in cases, and would be deploying control measures to mitigate the spread.
The North’s chief medical officer, Michael McBride, said he was “very much aware of the impact of the restrictions on young people”.
“They’ve lost out on so much and they deserve to be able to enjoy the summer with their friends and families,” he said.
But he said Covid-19 “is still a very real threat” and everyone needed to “play their part” in helping to stop the spread of the virus.
“Our advice remains the same – stick to guidelines and regulations; all adults aged 18 and over should get vaccinated; and, in particular, ensure you and your close contacts self-isolate if you test positive.”
He urged anyone organising or attending events to follow public health advice and restrictions.
There were 278 more confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the North as of Tuesday, bringing the total number of detected infections to 126,747.
There were no more confirmed deaths over the past week, with the total death toll since the outbreak of the pandemic remaining at 2,155.
The number of Covid-19-related hospital admissions was 17 over the past week, bringing to 19 the number in hospital. Two people are in ICU.