Montreal public health officials are asking that anyone who has been to a bar in the city since July 1, be tested for COVID-19.
The request comes after at least eight cases of COVID-19, among “contagious clients or employees,” have been linked to at least five Montreal bars.
“I’m very much afraid that what we are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. David Kaiser, a physician with Montreal Public Health on Saturday.
“The pandemic is not behind us in Montreal and community transmission is very present.”
Health officials did not name the five bars, but they’ve been in touch with owners to let them know among the patients. According to Aaron Derfel of the Montreal Gazette, two of the bars include Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue’s Annies Bar and La Voûte nightclub in Old Montreal.
Health officials are having trouble with contact tracing, since bars did not have customer registries in place until Friday. The patients in question visited the bars before then.
“We know that there is a lot of contact between the different establishments and we wanted to get out in front of that quickly,” said Kraser.
On Thursday, Quebec officials announced that they’re limiting the capacity of bars and nightclubs across the province as infections start to climb, particularly on Montreal’s South Shore. All bars must now be cleared by 1 a.m., while last call will be at midnight, instead of 3 a.m.
Establishments can only operate at 50 per cent of their capacity and customers must be seated. Voluntary customer registers have also been implemented to help with contact tracing, a move that comes weeks after the Quebec government allowed the reopening of almost all economic activity sectors, including bars on June 25.
The province initially announced it would crack down on venues last week, after several people in Montérégie tested positive for COVID-19, following a visit to a bar in Brossard and a couple of house parties, which have led to at least 20 infections.
Public health authorities asked anyone who was at the Mile Public House bar in the Brossard mall, between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m. June 30, to get tested.
Dr. Horacio Arruda, director of Quebec public health, said on Thursday that case counts from gatherings at bars are still being determined, but about 66 cases are from the Montérégie area, and about 25 cases are from other locations.
“If we don’t act, those 66 are going to generate another 120, it’s going to be more and more,” said Arruda.
In a press release Saturday, Montreal health officials said they’re “seeing an increase in the proportion of cases among young people aged 15 to 39.”