As cases of COVID-19 continue to be diagnosed across the city, Mayor Jim Watson has officially declared a state of emergency in Ottawa. Describing the virus as “a danger of major proportions,” Watson confirmed the decision on Wednesday morning. The move will allow stronger measures to be immediately implemented without a council vote.

Taking to Twitter on Wednesday morning at 10:15 a.m., Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson confirmed his decision to declare a state of emergency for the capital city.

He explained that the move was “in response to the increasing spread of COVID-19 in our community,” describing it as “a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to residents of the City of Ottawa.”

Watson acknowledged in his statement that while the region only has 25 confirmed cases and 13 indeterminate cases of novel coronavirus, health officials believe the actual number of people with the virus is much higher.

The notice also explained that the city's non-essential businesses are now legally required to close their doors to the public, effective immediately.

The Ontario government also declared a state of emergency on March 17.

The decision to declare a state of emergency comes as the city attempts to control the spread of COVID-19 wherever possible.

Although the number of confirmed cases in Ottawa remains relatively low in comparison with other cities, the region’s Medical Officer of Health has predicted that there are likely to be thousands more undiagnosed cases.

On Sunday, Dr. Vera Etches confirmed that community spread was now taking place in Ottawa, and suggested that there could actually be more than 4,000 people with the virus in the city.

According to a report from CBC, provincial legislation states that Mayor Jim Watson, as the head of a Canadian municipality, can now make orders believed to be necessary without council voting on those measures.

"Declaring a state of emergency will help our City Manager, Steve Kanellakos, and his team deploy our emergency operations in a quicker and more nimble fashion," Watson explained.

On Monday, Mayor John Tory announced a state of emergency in Toronto, describing the move as "absolutely critical in our ongoing efforts to slow down the spread of COVID-19."

You can keep up-to-date with all of the city's latest COVID-19 news, advice and recommendations by visiting the Ottawa Public Health website.