Thirty-two new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been confirmed in Ontario, bringing the provincial total to 177, including five recoveries.
There are more than 1,537 people currently under investigation for the virus. More than 8,460 people in Ontario have tested negative.
The number is down slightly from Sunday's record of 42 new cases in Ontario. New patients reported today are all self-isolating, but other information -- including their ages and how they became infected -- is sparse.
READ MORE: These are the major Ontario COVID-19 developments for March 16
Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health said it is taking longer to determine a point of transmission for the virus due to the sharp increase of patients being identified every day.
“We’ve found that the number of new cases have almost doubled in the last few days,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe said. “We really cannot definitively rule out community transmission. That is why at this point we feel we need to take more measures.”
The new measures include recommendations that restaurants and bars temporarily shut down, with the exception of those that offer takeout services. Toronto health officials went even further to say that all restaurants, bars, nightclubs and movie theatres should stop offering dine-in service as of midnight on Tuesday.
Businesses that failed to comply could face orders to close under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, which could result in fines of up to $25,000 a day.
These decisions are not easy. We will get through this and we need your help,” deVilla said. "We do know that social distancing and effective social distancing is what makes a difference."
De Villa also said there were at least three cases being investigated by Toronto Public Health where no links to travel or other patients have been found to date.
Health officials are also urging people to avoid large gatherings of more than 50 people and ask that everyone practice social distancing.
Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams also urged anyone who is able to should work from home.
‘Significant number’ of cases from U.S.
Yaffe also said that a “significant number” of cases investigated were exposed in the United States. The associate chief medical officer has previously called the number of patients who recently travelled to some part of the U.S. “something of a trend.”
She said that of the 32 new cases reported, she said that about 10 of them had travelled to the United States or were contacts of other patients.
“We know that there is a growing number of cases in the United States and certainly we are seeing thus a significant proportion in our cases have had exposures in the United States, so that is a concern.”
The new confirmed cases come just hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shut the borders to all non-Canadian and non-American citizens, with a few exceptions.
Trudeau also announced that international flights will be rerouted to Montreal, Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver.
The first case of COVID-19 in Canada was confirmed on Jan. 25, 2020, after a man travelling from Wuhan, China, tested positive for the coronavirus. The virus has now spread to more than 10 provinces with over 300 cases reported.
Complaints over Telehealth wait times
Meanwhile, following complaints of long wait times for Telehealth Ontario services, Health Minister Christine Elliott says the province is adding more nurses to the system.
"By immediately expanding Telehealth's resources, we can significantly reduce the time it takes for Ontarians to receive the information they need to stay safe and healthy," Elliott said in a statement.
About 130 more nurses have been deployed for symptom assessment and referrals. Telehealth is also working to add more intake staff so that wait times are reduced for people to make initial contact with a representative.
The province is also working with the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario to expand supports using its 44,000 registered nurse members, Elliott said.
Ontario's chief medical officer of health says unless people have severe symptoms or a medical emergency, they should stay at home while waiting for a Telehealth response.
"We understand that people are anxious to get the advice about next steps as soon as possible, which is why the capacity of Telehealth is being enhanced," Dr. David Williams said in a statement.
Elliott also announced that youth justice facilities have been told to suspend all personal visits and volunteer activities. All "non-essential" leaves for helping youth in custody reintegrate into the community are being restricted.
Elliott and Social Services Minister Todd Smith said video-calling can still be used for family to stay in touch with youth in those facilities.
Lawyers will still be able to visit their clients but should consider using teleconferencing instead, the ministers said.
With files from The Canadian Press.