CORONAVIRUS lockdown restrictions in Northern Ireland will be extended until 5 March.
The Northern Ireland Executive backed the proposal from Health Minister Robin Swann at its meeting on Thursday.
A review will take place on February 18, however restrictions may have to remain in place until after the Easter holidays in order to continue pushing down the 'R' number.
A paper on when schools will reopen will be brought before the Executive next week.
At the moment they are not due to reopen until after half-term in February but that is likely to change.
Ministers were reviewing the lockdown which began on Boxing Day.
First Minister, Arlene Foster, said that the Executive has received a "sobering assessment" of where we are in battling the pandemic.
She added that people in Northern Ireland "have halved the number of cases in a fortnight and day by day we are reducing that further", while the 'R' number is currently estimated to be at 0.65-0.85.
The DUP leader confirmed that that 144,212 people across Northern Ireland had received their first Covid-19 vaccine by the end of yesterday, adding that all of those aged over 80 should be offered their first vaccine by the end of this week.
However, "we have made progress but our war against Covid-19 has not been won and our hospital case numbers remain at extremely high levels", she added.
"We need to keep pressing forward to provide our health service with the full relief and respite it needs from COVID," stated Mrs Foster.
News that the 'R' rate was now below 1 was to be welcomed, according to Ms O'Neill.
"This is very welcome evidence that the current restrictions are having a really positive impact," she said.
She added that it would take some time for the restrictions to have "maximum impact on the course of the epidemic".