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Montrealers line up for coronavirus testing as bars remain source of concern in Quebec

Montreal COVID-19 infections triple in the last week
WATCH: The majority of new COVID-19 cases in Montreal are from community transmission. Thirty new cases have been traced back to nine bars in the Montreal area. As Global's Phil Carpenter explains, health officials say there's no cause for concern, yet.

In Montreal, public health authorities have seen a rise in the number of positive cases resulting from coronavirus testing and confirmed 30 cases linked to at least nine bars since July 1.

Dr. David Kaiser said on Tuesday that at least 3,000 people have been tested following public health’s call issued on the weekend for bar patrons and employees to be screened following an outbreak.

“We have seen a really impressive response to our recommendation,” he said.

Montrealers have continued to join hours-long lineups in order to be tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Kaiser said the entire health network on the island is working hard to keep up with the demand, which is about 50 per cent higher than the previous weekend.

“I would say be patient, your desire to get tested is important to us and it will help us do our work,” said Kaiser.

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READ MORE: Quebec makes masks mandatory in indoor public spaces starting July 18 to limit coronavirus spread

The data from this weekend shows that the rate of positive cases is higher in testing in Montreal with about three positive cases per 100 tests, according to public health. Kaiser said it was previously about 1 in 100 tests that came back positive.

That percentage translates to about 10 to 15 cases per day, Kaiser explained, a relatively low positivity rate compared to the height of the pandemic, when authorities were conducting more tests.

Montreal is also seeing a higher rate of community transmission. Kaiser said that isn’t solely due to bars and restaurants reopening, saying the presence of private events in the city such as backyard or indoor parties had also contributed.

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Teams visiting bars in the city to see if they are, in fact, following public health directives say most businesses have been respecting the rules, added Kaiser.

“Private events influence the transmission in public places such as bars,” he said.

When it comes to testing, Kaiser said more walk-in testing is needed to accommodate the high demand for screening for COVID-19.

Montrealers who visited bars and are waiting for test results don’t necessarily have to self-isolate — but only if they meet certain conditions, he added.

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“If you don’t have symptoms and if you haven’t been in contact with a known case of COVID, you don’t have to self-isolate waiting for your test or waiting for your result,” he said.

Quebec’s premier says situation is under control

Montreal public health’s findings come as some bars where COVID-19 cases have been confirmed among staff — such as McKibbin’s in Montreal’s West Island — are urging patrons to get tested.

Last week, the province tightened rules around bars in order to limit the spread of the virus, including cutting hours and ordering establishments to operate at half capacity.

Quebec Premier François Legault said on Tuesday that the province won’t hesitate to shut down bars if necessary.

“For now, the situation remains in control.”

READ MORE: McKibbin’s Irish Pub in Pointe-Claire urges patrons to get tested for novel coronavirus

Quebec reported 109 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the province’s total to 56,730 since the pandemic first began.

Authorities recorded five more deaths from the previous day. The health crisis has killed 5,633 people to date.

The number of hospitalizations across the province dropped by 10 to 295. Of those patients, 21 are in intensive care.

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The last available data for testing shows that 9,072 tests were administered on July 12, which is below Quebec’s goal of 14,000 daily tests.

Quebec has the highest number of infections and deaths attributable to COVID-19. The province accounts for more than half of Canada’s cases.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, director of Quebec public health, said the situation is currently under control in the province, but it is “always risky.”

He said the problem is people are not respecting public health guidelines as strictly as they did before the summer, such as the two-metre physical distancing rule or a limit on the number of people for indoor gatherings.

“They are doing activities where the risk of transmission can be amplified so it’s under control but we must remind people of those rules,” he said.

Coronavirus: Bars are likely areas of increased risk for contracting COVID-19, Dr. Njoo says
Coronavirus: Bars are likely areas of increased risk for contracting COVID-19, Dr. Njoo says

With files from Global News’ Phil Carpenter, Gloria Henriquez and the Canadian Press

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