TORONTO -- The province's transit agency is reducing service on GO trains and buses and the UP Express starting next week as ridership continues to decline as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Metrolinx said they had seen a steady decline of ridership since January, and it is expected to continue with all the event cancellations and school closures due to the virus.

Metrolinx CEO Phil Vester said an average of 200,000 people use their service per day. However, ridership has fallen to about 40 per cent or 80,000 riders per day.

"Our key consideration is ensuring our services can continue, and our employees and customers are safe," Verster said in a statement. "We want to ensure there is a reliable and sustainable plan for service to continue over the weeks to come."

He also said the reduction would provide a chance for the agency to rotate their employees so all services could run as long as possible.

Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams recommended the immediate suspension of all large events and public gatherings of over 250 people due to COVID-19.

Transit, however, is not included in the recommendation.

"I've had discussion with our provincial colleagues, and I can advise that this does not include the use of public transit," Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, said.

The changes will take effect on March 18. The revised scheduled will be available on Sunday.

Health officials reported 19 new cases of the virus on Friday, bringing the total in Ontario to 79.