For the first time since lockdown began, Northern Ireland’s coronavirus dashboard has recorded a full 24-hour period without any new Covid-19 cases.
The dashboard covers tests carried out daily in health trust labs, but it does not include tests on national testing sites as part of NHS-wide initiatives.
Health Minister Robin Swann described it as “significant progress in forcing the virus into retreat”.
The chief medical officer said NI had “made important strides forward”.
However, Dr Michael McBride warned that coronavirus remained a “very real threat”.
A total of 995 tests were completed between Thursday evening and Friday evening and none had a positive result.
One further coronavirus-related death was recorded within the same 24-hour accounting period.
It brings the total number of deaths reported by Northern Ireland’s Department of Health to 545, but this figure refers mainly to hospital deaths.
More comprehensive data collated by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) showed the coronavirus-related death toll recently passed 800.
On Saturday, the UK Department for Health and Social Care announced a further 128 people had died after testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the UK total to 42,589.
In the Republic of Ireland, two further deaths were confirmed on Saturday and one previously reported Covid-19 death was removed from the official death toll.
It means there have now been 1,715 coronavirus-related deaths in the Republic of Ireland since the outbreak began.
After the latest testing statistics were released on Saturday, Northern Ireland’s health minister and chief medical officer both welcomed the fact there had been no new cases over a 24-hour period.
‘Massive collective effort’
“We continue to make significant progress in forcing the virus into retreat,” Mr Swann said.
“This is due to a massive collective effort by people across Northern Ireland.
“It is vital that we all maintain this progress and keep following public health advice on social distancing and washing our hands.”
Dr McBride said: “We have undoubtedly made important strides forward and the people of Northern Ireland deserve great praise for the sacrifices they have made in our response to this virus.
“Covid-19 remains a very real threat and now is not the time to drop guard.
“I urge everyone to keep doing the right thing in terms of hand hygiene and social distancing. Please stay safe and save lives.”
The difference in death tolls
At the end of each working week, Nisra releases data on the number of deaths in Northern Ireland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Nisra’s most recent statistics show that by Friday 12 June, there had been 802 deaths where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate.
The Department of Health’s death toll refers to patients who have died with 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, whether or no the infection was the cause of their death.