Quebec short of COVID-19 screening goal as Montrealers urged to wear masks

As the Montreal area continues to be the Canadian epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, anyone showing symptoms of the virus is being asked to get tested.

Call 1-877-644-4545 to be directed to testing site if you have symptoms

A testing site in Montréal-Nord. The province is ramping up its testing in the Montreal area. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

As the Montreal area continues to be the Canadian epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, anyone showing symptoms of the virus is being asked to get tested.

Last week, Quebec public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda said he hoped to reach a total of 14,000 tests per day in the province. As of Friday, however, the province had only managed to reach 10,000.

Despite that, Arruda said he is still hopeful the province will be able to reach that goal in the coming days, as Montreal's new mobile testing sites start operating.

So far, the city has two mobile testing sites. According to Montreal public health director Dr. Mylène Drouin, they will be travelling between boroughs, with a special focus on areas that have less access to transportation.

As the province gets ready to undergo gradual deconfinement, health authorities will also be increasing their capacity for contact tracing by hiring more staff. At the moment, Montreal has the capacity to conduct 500 contact tracing investigations per day, Drouin said.

To date, Montreal has 18,435 of the province's 36,150 confirmed cases of the virus.

Anyone with symptoms such as fever, cough, trouble breathing or sudden loss of taste or smell are asked to call 1-877-644-4545 to be directed to a testing site.

Those who both have symptoms and have come into contact with a confirmed case will be considered positive for the virus and will not be tested, said Arruda.

Some positive cases not returning calls

"We are in a situation that is constantly evolving. We don't know what tomorrow will be made of," said Arruda, who was in Montreal on Friday.

Arruda also stressed the importance of following up with government health officials. He said several people who have tested positive have been ignoring phone calls from regional health boards and have refused to isolate themselves or to monitor their symptoms.

"Please understand that that creates problems and really affects our capacity to perform the work that we do, which is to prevent cases," said Arruda.

With Mother's Day weekend approaching, Arruda and Drouin warned against visiting friends and relatives.

"At this time, we know we're tired, we all want to visit our friends and families, but it's not time to relax our measures," said Drouin.

Drouin repeated calls for Montrealers to wear face coverings and masks when in public, especially in locations where physical distancing can be a challenge.

"We really are the epicentre of the pandemic in Canada and we must double our efforts," said Drouin.

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