MONTREAL -- The Quebec government will quickly begin ramping up testing to 14,000 per day as it moves to gradually reopen schools and workplaces in the province.

There are currently about 7,000 tests taking place in the province per day, and those tests to date have been focused on symptomatic cases and those in the health care system.

Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health, and his deputy, Yves Jalbert, made the announcement at a press conference in Quebec City Friday afternoon, laying out what they call their 'populational diagnosing plan.' They say they aim to reach 14,000 daily tests by Friday of next week.

“We now have the capacity that we didn’t have a few weeks ago,” said Jalbert.

The most aggressive testing will take place in hotspots, including northeastern Montreal, and speficially Montreal North, where there has been an outbreak.

Places where the deconfinement is set to begin in the coming weeks, including schools, daycares, manufacturing plants will also be readily tested, though the focus will be on those that are symptomatic. The government will continue testing on essential workers like firefighters and health care workers.

Starting Monday, the people who have symptoms will be able to call a telephone line (that will soon be made public) and those people will be referred to a designated screening centre or clinic.

Arruda said the increased testing will result in more confirmed cases -- that is the hope and expectation -- and that it is the key to moving up the transmission chain to limit the contagion of the virus.

Ramping up testing with allow public health officials to understand transmission in communities better.

“What is happening in Montreal North right now? What is the dynamic of the transmission? How do we control it to keep it from spreading to other areas?” he said.

To date, 28,648 people have tested positive for the virus, and 2,020 people have died. Some 220,000 tests have been taken in the province since the start of the pandemic.

Earlier this week, Quebec announced that its schools and businesses would start reopening later this month, and health authorities have repeatedly said that increased testing is a key part of achieving that reopening in a safe and healthy manner.

Aside from Friday's testing press conference, the Quebec government did not hold its daily COVID-19 briefing; on Thursday Legault said those briefings would now only be held three times a week. The next one is expected Monday.