KITCHENER -- Waterloo Region and its municipalities have declared a state of emergency amid the growing COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement was made on Wednesday as part of the region’s effort to slow the spread of the disease, as cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in the region.

On Wednesday, Region of Waterloo Public Health announced another 26 cases of COVID-19 in the region, bringing the local to 58. That includes 25 laboratory-confirmed cases.

“This declaration sends the strongest possible message to our residents to stay home and to change their behaviour,” a news release from the region reads in part.

The declaration will allow officials to cut through red tape faster and take measures to ensure the safety of residents.

Curious what a state of emergency means? Read more here

“Quite literally we could enlist bylaw officers to go around and make sure people are adhering to staying in their homes and practicing physical distancing,” said regional Chair Karen Redman.

In a release, the region says that the next few days are critical in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The declaration is on behalf of all seven municipalities, including Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Woolwich, Wilmot, Wellesley, and North Dumfries.

“This is an important decision for the future health and wellbeing of our entire community,” said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic in a news release. “This declaration gives our municipality a few more tools in our toolbox to respond to the spread of this virus in our community.”

This measure comes one day after the province ordered all businesses considered non-essential to close.