OTTAWA -- Canada’s top doctor has a stern message for Canadians in response to the rise of COVID-19 cases across the country: change the trajectory before it’s too late.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the spikes are a stark reminder to rein in behaviour that defies physical distancing and other public health guidelines.

"What you’re seeing now is of course concerning – and just to remind people that it is actually what happened in the last couple of weeks that resulted in the increase in cases that we’re seeing, so we are always looking backwards as opposed to projecting forward," Tam said Tuesday at a press conference in Ottawa.

"The key message is that the time to act is now across the board in terms of reducing some of the contacts you’ve had over the summer months."

Her colleague, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo, said the spikes are primarily rising from social gatherings.

"We must all act now to pump the brakes on this acceleration. Several reported outbreaks have been linked to single gatherings such as private social events, celebrations and community events held indoors," he said.

Quebec reported 292 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest in the country, followed by Ontario at 251. On Monday, Canada’s total case count reached the highest it’s been since late May.

The doctors reminded Canadians of the precautionary measures to take before gathering in groups, such as having hand sanitizer on hand, wearing masks or other face coverings, and cleaning common areas before and after the event.

Dr. Tam and other public health officials provided an update to the Liberal cabinet on Monday about the new acceleration of cases and how Canada can act quickly to contain outbreaks.

Part of this strategy includes freeing up more space in testing settings and laboratories, said Tam.

"We will offer some surge capacity to local and provincial departments if they need the surge support of federal laboratories," she said.