OTTAWA -- Ottawa's medical officer of health is raising concerns about the high number of suspected overdoses in Ottawa during the COVID-19 pandemic, including four separate deaths last weekend.

A new report from Public Health Ontario on opioid-related deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic found a 25 per cent increase in suspected drug-related deaths in Ontario between March and May 2020, compared to the monthly median reported in 2019.

Speaking with reporters on Thursday, Dr. Etches said Ottawa data shows that opioid-related emergency department visits at Ottawa hospitals have increased in 2020, exceeding those seen in 2019.

"Even last weekend, a high number of suspected overdoses took place within 24 hours," said Dr. Etches.

"The Ottawa Police Service is investigating four separate deaths. While there are no known linkages between the deaths, fentanyl is suspected to be involved."

The medical officer of health said there are many factors contributing to the increase in overdoses, including an increasingly toxic street drug supply.

"An equally worrying factor is how physical distancing, which is recommended to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, may be leading people to use drugs along."

Dr. Etches recommends no one uses substances alone.