More than 70% of the adult population in Northern Ireland have received the first dose of their Covid-19 vaccination.
Health Minister Robin Swann said over 40% of the population are now fully vaccinated.
He also announced that in order to maintain the programme’s momentum, the vaccination programme will be extended to the 18-24-year-old age group “in the very near future”.
“Alongside vaccination, contact-tracing, testing and self-isolation following a positive test remain the cornerstones of our ongoing public health response,” he said.
“I would again appeal to the public to work with us and keep playing their part in preventing the spread of the virus.
“That’s how we keep each other safe and protect the hard-won progress we have achieved.”
Rapid tests are being actively offered to a range of workforces and sectors of the economy.
In addition, members of the public can now access these tests free of charge.
These can be ordered online and will be delivered to home addresses, or can be collected from number of locations.
Mr Swann described testing, vaccination and contact tracing should be seen as “vital lines of defence against Covid-19”.
“Alongside these, we must keep sticking to the public health basics, social distancing, limiting contacts with others, wearing face coverings, and washing our hands regularly,” he said.
“Always remember that outdoors is safer than indoors and that ventilation, a good supply of fresh air, can reduce the risk indoors. Keep windows and doors open where possible and avoid cramped, crowded settings.”
Wednesday saw the eighth consecutive day in Northern Ireland where no further deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 were notified.
The Department of Health said another 66 positive cases had been confirmed, while there were 28 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom two were in intensive care.