OTTAWA -- Ottawa’s top doctor is urging Ottawa residents to cancel in-person gatherings over Easter, Passover and Ramadan due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches acknowledges the religious holidays may be a tough time for people feeling isolated, but says it's important to avoid family gatherings. 

“These holidays are often celebrated by gathering with family and friends. I encourage you to find ways to connect through technology during these celebrations,” said Dr. Etches in a video statement released Tuesday evening.

“I urge you not to gather in person, even with extended family outside your household, as we still need everyone’s efforts to flatten the curve.”

Under Ontario's Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, gatherings with five or more people are prohibited in public and private places during the pandemic. 

There are 403 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, including six deaths.

Flatten the curve?

Dr. Etches thanks all Ottawa residents for their efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including practicing physical distancing.

“This is easier when we recognize we’re all in this together. We all make a difference when we practice physical distancing.”

In the video statement, Dr. Etches thanks heath care workers and other essential workers, including staff in grocery stores, for their work during the pandemic.

“I will keep working to make sure that people stay home, so you’re supported in your work.”

Dr. Etches adds there would be more cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa if people didn’t respect the physical-distancing requirements.

In a statement on the Ottawa Public Health website, Dr. Etches acknowledges that if you look at the epidemiological curve of Ottawa residents with confirmed COVID-19, you’ll note the number of daily cases is slowing down.

“While this is hopeful, it would be premature to conclude that the curve is flattening and the COVID-19 is circulating less in our community.”