Health Minister Robin Swann is supporting a call from the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service for new blood donors to come forward.
The Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service's (NIBTS) appeal coincides with World Blood Donor Day and follows a decline in the number of new people giving blood.
Speaking after giving blood at NIBTS headquarters, Health Minister Robin Swann said: "The number of new donors coming forward halved during the pandemic but demand for blood has remained at the same level. Therefore it's vital that we bolster our donor base by encouraging people who have never donated before to start giving blood, and go on to become regular donors.
"Changes to the criteria for donor eligibility introduced last August means that there are now more people than ever before in Northern Ireland able to give blood. So if you haven't donated before, please consider registering today. Giving blood really does save lives."
As of 16 August 2021, the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service assess donor eligibility on a person-by-person basis instead of applying across-the-board restrictions which have previously excluded potential donors. Using a donor's individual experiences to determine whether that person is eligible to donate makes the process fairer for all donors.
John O'Doherty, Director of the Rainbow Project said: "The implementation of the new rules surrounding blood donations last summer is good news for everyone in Northern Ireland. The changes mean a large number of people who were never been able to donate blood are now eligible to do so. We would like to take this opportunity on World Blood Donor Day to thank those who have donated since the changes were introduced and encourage all others who are now eligible to register as blood donors."
Concluding Karin Jackson, Chief Executive of the NI Blood Transfusion Service, said: "We are delighted to be celebrating World Blood Donor Day, with this year's theme being 'Giving blood is an act of solidarity.' This is particularly true as, with any blood donation, you are positively impacting someone's life, their family's life and your local community.
"On behalf of NIBTS, I want to recognise and thank all those who donate blood in Northern Ireland - lives are saved every day as a result of your generosity. Whether you're a long-time donor like the Health Minister who is approaching his 60th donation or whether you have just given blood for the first time, thank you.
"Now, more than ever, we encourage you to either donate or to join our register to become a donor today. Donation takes less than 30 minutes of your life, but one donation can save up to three lives."