How close is too close?
That’s what Jodi Carman is trying to find out after visiting the Hotel Dieu COVID-19 testing centre in Montreal Friday evening to get tested for the virus.
“When the elevator doors opened, I walked into a very, very crowded hallway with people lining both sides of the hallway,” she told Global News, describing what she saw on the second floor of the centre.
She said that she went to the clinic at around 4 p.m. when staff issued masks and insisted that visitors sanitize their hands. People were already too close together at the entrance, but on one floor, people were so close together they were touching, she said.
“I had to ask people to move away and they didn’t like that,” Carman laughed. “Like, I was literally saying, ‘could you give me some space?’ Because it was so close.”
She wonders why that was the case, since for about a week health authorities have been insisting that the public observe a social distance of one to two metres, to help prevent transmission of the coronavirus.
There wasn’t a crowd at the clinic Saturday, but people who went for testing claimed that clinic staff were asking patients to be less than two metres apart.
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“To stay one arm’s length between each person,” test recipient Mario Cordileone said, “and if some people were too far away, they would tell us to get closer.”
He said that didn’t bother him.
“With the mask, I guess that helps a little bit even though we are in confined in the corridor there with all the people.”
Quebec health board officials didn’t think it was a problem either.
In a statement, CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal spokesperson Mélissa Léveillé wrote: “According to the Regional Public Health Department, the distance of one metre between masked people, in clinical settings, is not necessary. It is however essential not to touch others and not to share objects.”
She also noted that “people who came for their individual meeting were, for the most part, accompanied by several people. It shouldn’t be. Only people who have obtained an appointment through 811 should go to the Hôtel-Dieu COVID clinic.”
But Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann didn’t condone having people that close, even in a clinical setting.
During a daily COVID-19 briefing in Quebec City, the minister said to reporters, “we should really apply what we are asking, that there will be a certain distance, one metre or two metres, between every person.”
She said the province plans to increase the capacity of testing centres in Montreal by about 2,000 within a few days, but said she would look into what happened at Hotel-Dieu.