Ontario may be seeing community transmission as 32 new coronavirus cases confirmed: officials

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Canada cases surpass 400, more than 34,000 tested'
Coronavirus outbreak: Canada cases surpass 400, more than 34,000 tested
WATCH ABOVE: Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said on Monday that the total number of cases of COVID-19 had surpassed 400, at 407, and added that the majority of cases are travel-related. Tam also said that Canada had tested more than 34,000 Canadians for the virus to date – Mar 16, 2020

Ontario health officials say the province may be seeing community transmission of novel coronavirus.

“The numbers are going up very rapidly. It’s a very quickly-evolving situation now,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health.

“We have found that the numbers of new cases have almost doubled in a few days … We really cannot definitively rule out community transmission. That is why, at this point, we feel that we need to take more measures.”

Ontario reported 32 new coronavirus cases on Monday morning, bringing the new provincial active total to 172.

Of the total 177 cases, five have been resolved.

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“There are some that do not seem to have a travel history or a contact case at this stage,” said Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams.

In Toronto, the city’s medical officer of health said Monday afternoon that three cases in the city were believed to be instances of community transmission.

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Don’t have gatherings of more than 50 people: chief medical officer

Williams said that all gatherings of over 50 people should be cancelled and recommended that all restaurants and bars close or maintain take-out operations only.

When asked whether there would be a recommendation that all non-essential businesses close, Williams said he continues to have talks with government officials, but no decision had been made.

“I say stay tuned,” he said.

Health officials report 1,537 people are under investigation in the province and 8,464 others have come back with a negative result.

All the new cases reported Monday morning are said to be in self-isolation. Eleven are from Toronto, three from Ottawa, five in York Region, four from Hamilton, four from Peel Region, one from Niagara, one from Durham, one from Halton Region, one from Sudbury and one from the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph area.

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Ford government announces reduced budget

Meanwhile, the Ford government announced Monday that a reduced budget would be released in late March instead of a full one due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips said instead of releasing a full budget on March 25, the government will be releasing a reduced economic and fiscal update based on the “current” situation with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Phillips said the one-year outlook will be “realistic” based on what is happening in the province at the moment.

Premier Doug Ford says there are some “rough waters ahead,” but the government is prepared to do whatever it takes to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The province over the weekend announced it is drafting legislation to ban employers from requiring sick notes for those in self-isolation or quarantine.

It will also ensure protected leave for workers who have to take unpaid leave to isolate themselves or care for others, such as children not in school.

Concerned about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk for Canadians is low.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing – very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

–With files from The Canadian Press

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