The province’s chief medical officer of health is now recommending the closure of all bars and restaurants in Ontario, along with places of worship and day cares.

During a news conference on Monday afternoon, Dr. David Williams, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said officials are advising people not to gather in groups larger than 50.

Williams says he is recommending the closure of all recreational programs, libraries, schools, including private schools, day care centres, churches and other faith settings.

Williams also said bars and restaurants should halt dine-in service until further notice.

“We are taking a number of steps to increase the social distancing,” Williams noted. "Right now, those are the things that we are really asking to take action on right away." 

The move comes just hours after Williams said he would not be recommending the widespread closures of restaurant and bars.

“We were waiting to hear what the federal government,” Williams said. “We had some further directions from the Chief Public Health Office of Canada.”

Premier Doug Ford previously indicted that as soon as the province was given the directive to move forward with further closures, it would.

“Once the chief medical officer tells us we need to shut it down, we will shut it down," Ford said during a news conference on Monday morning.

Ontario now has 177 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including five recoveries.

“The number of new cases being reported each day is going up quite quickly," Dr. Barara Yaffe,  Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, said at Monday's news conference.

“At this point we really cannot definitively rule out community transmission.”

Ford warns against 'panic' buying

The premier has also urged members of the public not to “panic buy,” adding that he has “personally spoken” to the “vast majority of retailers in Ontario,” who have assured him that the supply chain is able to handle the demand.

“The reality is we are facing some rough waters ahead but we will get through this together,” Ford said. “These are unprecedented times but in difficult times like these, we learn a lot.”

During the news conference on Monday morning, Ford also called on the federal government to “tighten up the borders” for those trying to visit the country.

Hours later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that with the exception of U.S. citizens, Canada would be closing the border on March 18 to anyone who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

"I'm very concerned about reports we have been hearing at the border," Ford said before Trudeau’s announcement.

He added that he hopes trade is not be impacted.

“We are doing a billion dollars a day in two-way trade,” he said. “We have to keep the supply chain moving.”

New bill will protect workers amid outbreak

During Monday’s news conference, Ford confirmed that the province is currently in the process of drafting legislation that would amend the Employment Standards Act to provide protections for workers impacted by COVID-19.

“If you need to go into self-isolation, you will not lose your job,” Ford said. “If you are a parent and you need to stay home to look after the kids, you will not lose your job.”

The new rules will be retroactive to include anyone impacted by the virus after Jan. 25, 2020, when the province saw its first presumptive case of the virus.

The legislation will be in effect for “as long as the virus persists,” Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said.

It is not clear when the legislation will be passed.