Ontario reported three new cases of the novel coronavirus Monday, bringing the total in the province to 18.
The province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, was expected to provide details about the new cases at a press conference in the afternoon.
A spate of new cases was reported over the weekend, all of them people who had recently travelled to Iran or Egypt, or family members of those who had visited the countries.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said Ontario hasn't seen any indication at this point that the virus known as COVID-19 is spreading locally, beyond close contacts. But the province is prepared for any eventuality, she said.
"If that should happen or if there is a rapid number of cases coming in from other jurisdictions, of course we would step up to the next gear," she said. "But we are monitoring this very carefully."
Elliott announced that a new bureaucratic structure will now be in place for dealing with the virus. Various groups on regional planning, emergency operations, scientific advice and ethics will assemble and a "command table" will be the lead, involving health officials and executives, reporting to Elliott.
The province's first four cases were people with a travel history to China, where the outbreak originated, and three of them have since been completely cleared of the virus.
Iran has confirmed 1,501 cases of the virus and 66 deaths, but many believe the true number is larger as its caseload surged more than 250 per cent in just 24 hours.
Egypt has only two publicly reported cases of the illness.
In China, nearly 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 2,800 have died.
Ontario's three new cases bring Canada's total to 27, with eight cases in British Columbia and one in Quebec.
Health officials say the best ways to prevent the spread of any virus, COVID-19 included, include frequent hand-washing and staying home from school or work while sick.
Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu has encouraged Canadians to stockpile food and medication in their homes in case they or a loved one should fall ill with the novel coronavirus and remain in self-isolation for two weeks. But Elliott said Monday she doesn't believe that's necessary. She urged people to go about their daily lives, while being cautious, and said anyone with symptoms should contact their local public health unit.
The most common COVID-19 symptoms are a fever and dry cough, but while some show no symptoms at all, others have developed severe pneumonia and have even died.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 2, 2020.