Montreal's new clinic boosts testing, but turns away more than 1,000 who don't meet criteria

People don't need an appointment to go to the clinic — but they do need to meet at least one of the criteria from the contact section, and one from the symptom section listed in this story.

Anyone with symptoms can come with no appointment. Check first to see you meet criteria for contact, symptoms

A new Montreal clinic accepts visitors by car or by foot. But health officials stress not to come by public transit. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

A new walk-in clinic to test for COVID-19 opened Monday morning in downtown Montreal, housed in outdoor tents set up on the grounds of the Place des Festivals.

The space, normally used to host the Montreal Jazz Festival and other events during the summer months, has now become a testing centre for the novel coronavirus.

The testing centre has 30 screening stations and 300 staff.

"I can assure you we have a team which is extremely motivated and happy to be here to respond to the needs of the Montreal population for screening," said Geneviève Alary, the nurse in charge of the clinic.

People don't need an appointment to go to the clinic, but they do need to meet at least one of the criteria from the contact section, and one from the symptom section (The list is here, in French).

Contact criteria:

  • Any person who has traveled outside Canada:   
    • who has re-entered the country since March 1, OR
    • who has had symptoms over the past 14 days, OR
    • who has gone out to one of the public spaces targeted by public health officials (see the list here).
  • Any person who has been in close contact with someone who is under investigation or is a confirmed case of COVID 19, OR
  • Any person that has received the directive to stay home under voluntary isolation.

Clinical criteria:

  • Any person who has been in close contact with a traveller who has one or many symptoms, OR
  • Any person who has had one of the following symptoms:   
    • Fever or chills, OR
    • Cough, OR
    • Difficulty breathing that began:     
      • During your trip OR in the 14 days following your return.
      • In the 14 days following any possible contamination.

Jean-Nicolas Aubé, a spokesperson for the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, acknowledged the criteria had been changed since first being announced Sunday.

Those who don't meet the criteria will be turned away at the triage phase, so Alary stressed that people should understand the criteria before showing up.

On Monday, the first day of testing at the new facility, 3,658 people lined up outside the tent. Of those, 2,172 were tested — but 1,486 others were turned away for not meeting the criteria to be tested.

People wait to be tested at a clinic at Montreal's Place des Festivals. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Those who meet the criteria are registered in heated tents and wait their turn to be tested. Once the test is done, people are being sent home and told to wait for results.

People began lining up, both in cars and on foot, for the clinic's opening early Monday. Police were on hand to ensure people kept a safe distance apart from one another.

The lineups varied Monday, with a few hundred people present at opening, lower numbers around midday and an increase in the afternoon, when a queue of cars stretched along De Maisonneuve Boulevard and up St-Denis Street.

McGill graduate student Rine Vieth came shortly after 8 a.m. and said the queue was quite long, but it moved quickly and people were in relatively good spirits.

"Everyone was honestly in a pretty good mood," Vieth said.

As an international student, Vieth doesn't have a Quebec health card but was able to use a passport as identification.

After the testing process, Vieth said it looked like the line had become considerably shorter.

Patricia Garvey, who came by car around midday, said she thought the process "would be crazy" but found it to be "super quick." 

Garvey said her grandmother was one of the four Quebecers who have died from the virus.

"This is no joke," she said.

Here's what happens at the new COVID-19 clinic

2 years ago
Duration 1:14
Patient explains how testing works at Montreal's new Place des Festivals site.

The site will increase the city's capacity to test to between 2,000 and 2,500 people per day, the regional health authority said.

"The main objective is to augment the quantity, the numbers of tests that we can do. That's the main objective," said Marie-France Coutu, a spokesperson for the CIUSSS.

The clinic will be open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. People are asked to bring their Quebec health care card or, if they don't have one, a valid piece of ID. 

Further details are available on the health authority's website.

With files from Kate McKenna and Sudha Krishnan


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