BELFAST (Reuters) – Health services in Northern Ireland will be significantly curtailed over the coming days and weeks to free up resources to care for coronavirus patients, the region’s health minister said on Friday.

Affected services will include non-urgent outpatient appointments, day cases, inpatient and diagnostic work. Suspect cancer cases and other urgent care will continue, unless advised by hospital groups, minister Robin Swann said in a statement.

The British-run region currently has 20 confirmed cases of coronavirus compared with 70 across its open border with the Republic of Ireland, where the population is around two and a half times bigger.

(Reporting by Ian Graham; Writing by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Alison Williams)