TORONTO -- The number of Ontario residents infected with the novel coronavirus climbed Friday as health officials confirmed six new cases in the past 36 hours, bringing the total in the province to 28. 

Officials said the risk of contracting the virus remains low, noting all recent cases involve people who have either recently visited global hotspots for the bug or their close relatives.

There is still no evidence of community spread in Ontario.

The latest two cases include a man in his 20s who returned from Italy on March 3 and went to Mount Sinai Hospital's emergency department in Toronto. He was discharged home the same day where he remains in self-isolation.

The second is a Richmond Hill woman in her 60s returned from Iran on March 2.

On Friday morning, officials also said a male patient in his 40s, who had travelled to Las Vegas in late February, had contracted the virus.

He was cared for by medical staff at Toronto Western Hospital and now remains at home in self-isolation.

Shortly after the first announced case on Friday, officials announced two additional cases.

One of the two new patients is the wife of the province’s 23rd patient. The woman and man, both in their 60s, were aboard the Grand Princess Cruise Ship out of San Francisco, which travelled to Mexico from Feb. 11 to 21. The pair returned to Canada on Feb. 28.

“Both of the individuals were assessed at Trillium Health Partners – Mississauga Hospital where all infection protection and control protocol were followed,” officials said. “They are well and currently recovering at home in self-isolation.”

Peel Public Health is reaching out to a select group of passengers who shared a WestJet flight with the couple on Feb. 28. Travellers seated in rows 18 to 22 on flight 1199 are being asked to self-isolate as a precautionary measure.

The other new case is a man in his 50s, who returned home from Iran on Feb. 27. He presented himself to North York General Hospital’s emergency department in Toronto on March 3. He was discharged from the hospital and remains at home in self-isolation.

"This information is being provided out of an abundance of caution. We're talking about low-risk situations," Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city's chief medical officer of health, said Friday during a briefing.

One of the patients used public transit in Toronto and Mississauga

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) said the man who travelled to Las Vegas had used public transit daily between March 2 and 4.

Toronto Public Health said the man had travelled along a number of routes on the TTC during those three days, including:

  • Bathurst Station westbound to Islington Station at around 8:50 a.m.
  • Islington Station to his work using 108N MiWay Express Mississauga at around 9:10 a.m.
  • 27 Milton GO Bus from work to Yorkdale Station at around 6:10 p.m.
  • Yorkdale Station to St. George Station at around 6:45 p.m.
  • St. George Station to Bathurst Station at around 7:16 p.m.
  • Bathurst Station to 511 Bathurst Streetcar on March 4 at around 7:20 p.m.
  • 511 Bathurst Streetcar to Bathurst Station on March 4 at around 4:20 p.m.

The TTC said the agency is in the process of identifying specific vehicles that the individual rode based on the man's travel patterns.

"Toronto Public Health continues to assure the TTC and the city that the risk of exposure for both TTC employees and customers remains low," the TTC said in a news release Friday.

"Since January, the TTC has been performing significant additional cleaning and disinfection of all public places with a focus on touch and grab points, such as buttons, railings, handles and straps. Every station, bus, streetcar, Wheel-Trans vehicle and train are receiving extra attention."

The transit agency said that the TTC continues to be a safe method of travel, but reminds riders to wash their hands and avoid touching their face. 

"The TTC takes the health and safety of its employees and customers very seriously and is in daily communication with Toronto Public Health," the agency said. "At this time, the direction is that no additional measures are required."

Four people have recovered in Ontario

Four people in the province previously diagnosed with the illness have since recovered, officials confirmed on Thursday. They are a Toronto couple in their 50s, a London, Ont. university student in her 20s and a Toronto woman in her 20s. They had all recently travelled to China.

All of the recovered patients have had two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

Ontario health officials continue to state that COVID-19 is “not circulating locally.”

“However, given the global circumstances, Ontario is actively working with city and health partners to plan for the potential of local spread.”

Canada's first apparent case of community transmission was reported in British Columbia on Thursday evening, when officials announced eight new cases of the illness.

There are thus far 51 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Canada – in addition to the 28 in Ontario, there are 21 in British Columbia, one in Alberta and three in Quebec.

Quebec has two confirmed cases and one presumptive diagnosis that still has to be confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. Alberta reported its first presumptive case of the illness last night.

With files from The Canadian Press