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Here's When You Should Actually Use Rapid Tests, According to Santé Québec

That is if you can get your hands on a rapid test!

Associate Editor, MTL Blog
Here's When You Should Actually Use Rapid Tests, According to Santé Québec

Have you been having a hard time trying to procure a rapid test in Quebec? You're not alone! Luckily it seems as if there is a glimmer of hope as the distribution of rapid tests is set to pick up province-wide.

Now, as PCR tests are reserved for priority groups, at home rapid tests have become the norm and Santé Québec is clarifying exactly when to use the testing kit for a more accurate diagnosis.

"People can become contagious about 2 days before the appearance of symptoms, even for asymptomatic people," the Ministry of Health said in a January 12 tweet alongside a graph comparing the efficacy of rapid and PCR tests over time.

To avoid running the risk of a false negative, potentially wasting a test, Santé Québec says that "the rapid test should be done within days of contact with a positive case or at the onset of symptoms for the virus to be more likely detected."

The rapid tests, the graph shows, are effective for less than a week following the onset of symptoms — just a fraction of the 14-day window in which a PCR test can detect a COVID-19 infection.

PCR tests are effective almost as soon as an infected person becomes contagious, about four days after contact with a positive case, according to the ministry.

Though right now Quebec isn’t counting the number of positive at-home tests — leading to an undercount in official tallies — the government is creating a platform where the public can self-report their COVID-19 status.

That is if residents can find a rapid test at all. Pharmacies have been in short supply despite promises of widespread distribution.

However, recent announcements suggest the situation could be changing.

In a January 5 press release, the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires (AQPP) said that Quebec was set to receive another batch of testing kits beginning Tuesday, January 11, and continuing into the following week. The testing kits, which are available to those 14 years of age and over, include five tests and can be replenished per 30 day period.

On January 13, the Ministry of Health announced the province is set to receive another 70 million rapid tests over the course of the next few months, pending Health Canada's approval of a partnership with a private distributor.

    Mike Chaar
    Associate Editor, MTL Blog
    Mike Chaar is an Assistant Editor for MTL Blog focused on recalls in Canada and is based in Montreal, Quebec.
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