OTTAWA -- Ottawa's top doctor is raising concerns about rising COVID-19 rates in the capital, warning new restrictions could be imposed on social gatherings and businesses this month unless transmission slows.

"Rates are no longer declining and we are close to the red category threshold," said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health.

"The wastewater signal in particular has been increasing for over a week and it's suggesting that more people are shedding the virus, perhaps unknowingly, posing a risk of transmission to others."

It's the second straight week that Etches has warned residents that Ottawa is approaching the "red-control" zone in Ontario's COVID-19 reopening framework.

As of Wednesday, Ottawa's COVID-19 rate was at 37 cases per 100,000 people, while the positivity rate is 2.1 per cent. The threshold to move into the red-control zone is a weekly incidence rate of 40 cases per 100,000 and a positivity rate of greater than 2.5 per cent.

"It's the overall picture. The amount of COVID overall in the community that is growing," said Dr. Etches about concerns with COVID-19 transmission in Ottawa.

"The wastewater, again, it's a pretty steep rise. We're also seeing hospitalizations have gone up; I always think of hospitalizations as a pretty firm indicator - if that's up, the COVID in our community is up. And the percent of people testing positive has gone up."

On Wednesday, Etches reported a rise in the number of people testing positive for the COVID-19 variants of concerns. Seventy-three more people have been identified as having a genetic indicator after initial screening.

There are currently 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants in Ottawa. Public Health Ontario reports eight cases in Ottawa of the variant first identified in the United Kingdom and one case of the variant first found in South Africa.

Under the "orange-restrict" level, restaurants and bars can open for in-person dining with a maximum of four people per table. Gyms are also allowed to open, with capacity limits for classes and in the facility. The limits for private gatherings at homes under the orange zone is 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

If Ottawa moves to the "red-control" level, the limits for all organized public events and social gatherings is five people indoors and 25 people outdoors.  In the red zone, capacity limits in restaurants and bars is 10 patrons maximum and capacity limits for gyms capped at 10 people in indoor areas with weights and exercise machines and 10 people for indoor classes.

Dr. Etches told CTV Morning Live last Friday that the Ontario government looks at COVID-19 data in each health unit on a Tuesday, and announces on a Friday whether a region will move in the colour-coded system.

Ottawa has been in the "orange-restrict" level since Feb. 16, when the stay-at-home order and lockdown ended in Ottawa.