Montreal to open more clinics, use rapid tests to curb hours-long lineups for COVID tests

·3 min read
Montreal to open more clinics, use rapid tests to curb hours-long lineups for COVID tests
People line up at a COVID-19 testing clinic Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz (The Canadian Press - image credit)
People line up at a COVID-19 testing clinic Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz (The Canadian Press - image credit)

Montreal public health says it will expand its COVID-19 testing network after being inundated with people seeking tests this week as caseloads continue on an upward trend following the return to school.

Dr. Mylène Drouin, Montreal's public health director, says more clinics are expected to open, capacity for testing at CLSCs will increase and rapid tests should soon be used in order to curb long wait times at COVID-19 testing centres across the city.

"We are looking at [...] with the rapid test, for example, other ways that we can increase capacity and use them in specific settings when there's outbreaks or with symptomatic patients," Drouin said.

Public health will look at all options "to make sure we can increase our capacity."

Testing sites became more limited over the summer, with some of the more popular clinics having closed. More than 100 people waited over an hour on a sidewalk today at a clinic on Chauveau Street in Montreal East — the only testing centre open in the region — to get tested.

WATCH| Montrealers frustrated over long wait times for a COVID-19 test:

"It's pretty exhausting," said Elee Gabrel, a student at Chomedey-De Maisonneuve high school, of his 45-minute wait.

"Fix the lines, because it's really frustrating for people who have kids, too, that have to wait in lines and people who cannot stand that much for a long time."

Gabriel Rubenovitch waited in line to get a test for his young son, who was sick with a high fever.

"I'm going to be patient. It is what it is, right?" he said.

Drouin told reporters Wednesday she is monitoring the delays and is already seeking remedies for them.

"We saw that we have delays, but we're working on it," said Drouin, adding that clinics may also soon use a ticket system to stop people from having to wait in line.

The city is doing about 6,000 tests on average per day and has the ability to do more, Drouin says. There are over 20 testing clinics spread out in Montreal, however, the majority of those clinics are by appointment only. She says more testing facilities are expected to open in the coming days.

Rapid tests coming to all Quebec elementary schools

According to public health, the data shows the delta variant is now accounting for 80 per cent of new cases on the island as the city averages about 250 new cases per day. Outbreaks are also on the rise.

There are 136 outbreaks in total — a sharp increase from 32 last month. The majority of outbreaks, 61, are in the workplace, with 28 in schools, 24 in daycares and 14 in health-care facilities. The biggest outbreaks are in daycare settings, Drouin said, as the city is seeing an increase in cases in those under 12 who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.

"I think we can expect to have this kind of community transmission till we'll be able to vaccinate the children under 11 years old," said Drouin.

Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada
Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada

To combat these outbreaks, the Quebec government has asked Daniel Paré, the head of the province's COVID-19 vaccination campaign, to take over the program to deploy rapid tests in all elementary schools across the province "in the coming days and weeks."

"Ultimately, they will have to be in all elementary schools in Quebec as quickly as possible," said Health Minister Christian Dubé Tuesday.

To date, rapid screening tests have been provided to 51 schools located in four hotspot neighbourhoods in the province: Montreal-North, Saint-Michel and Parc-Extension, in Montreal, and in Chomedey, in Laval.

Paré says the rapid tests would be distributed as a priority in places where vaccination coverage is lower, or where there is see more community transmission.

According to Drouin, these regions include Rivière-des-Prairies, Montréal-Nord, Bordeaux-Cartierville, Saint-Léonard, Mercier East, Saint-Michel and Parc-Extension.

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