MONTREAL -- Quebec Premier Francois Legault was in Riviere-du-Loup Wednesday and said that bars need to do a better job of enforcing safety precautions, and wait times need to be cut for COVID-19 testing in Montreal.

Legault reiterated that his government would be monitoring the situation in the province's drinking establishments very closely. He said that the employees of 35 bars out of 36 visited in the past few days by public health were not wearing the personal protective equipment required in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region.

In a press briefing Wednesday, the premier mainly talked about COVID-19 detection and deplored the waiting times in Montreal and indicated that Public Health would correct the situation.

The west-central health and social services announced that there will be a new COVID-19 walk-in testing clinic opened to all, but specifically with the goal of getting people aged 15 to 29 years old tested who have gone to bars since July 1.

The testing site will open Thursday at 544 Davaar Ave. from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.

In recent days, public health authorities have urged bar customers to get tested because of the spread of the virus in some establishments in the metropolis.

On the heels of this announcement, the number of people who showed up at certain screening clinics such as the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal clinic was so high that some people queued outside for several hours.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante spoke about this during a press briefing on Wednesday.

"I am happy. I am touched that Montrealers responded in such large numbers. This is good news, but making them wait 4 or 5 hours is not acceptable," said Plante.

Legault also considers the situation unacceptable and reiterated that the distribution of screening capacity must be corrected.

The premier added that there has been a "new dynamic for the past few days" due to public health's appeal to those who visited bars this month.

"The bars may be concentrated in certain places where we have not yet succeeded in putting enough capacity for testing, we are adjusting this," he said.


For hospitals in general, Legault believes that the construction of temporary modular structures represents a solution to emergency rooms being overcrowding, while waiting for new hospitals to be constructed.

He stressed that the overcrowding of the ERs is partly explained by the fact that there are not enough hospitals in Quebec.

"Several hospital expansion projects were in Bill 61, but there is expropriation to be done, as well as environmental approvals that are dragging on, and land planning that is dragging on. We will have to accelerate the construction and expansion of hospitals," he said.

New hospital and modular structure construction would help relieve ERs, according to the premier, but he feels the front line services must also improve by directing certain patients elsewhere than to hospitals.

"50 per cent of patients in emergency rooms should rather be seen in private clinics, in CLSCs or by family doctors," said Legault.

A statement published Wednesday by Index Santé indicates that waiting times were "high" or "very high" in about 60 hospital ERs or hospital centres in Quebec in the last 10 days.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2020.