Since not everyone can get a PCR test anymore.
As the fifth COVID-19 wave pummels Quebec, the province has decided to limit PCR tests to just a few priority groups. High demand for tests amid skyrocketing numbers of infections, officials said, was overwhelming testing sites. As a result, the general population has to rely on those rapid at-home tests available at pharmacies.
Now, the province is building a platform for Quebecers to self-report their results.
The Ministry of Health made the announcement Thursday, January 6, but didn't say when the platform will be up and running on Quebec.ca. In a press release, the ministry said it hopes the new tool will better enable officials to assess the province's positivity rate.
Public health and government officials have repeatedly warned that official daily reports have undercounted new COVID-19 cases since the advent of rapid at-home testing in Quebec.
"We have a worse visibility on the epidemiological situation," Health Minister Christian Dubé said on January 6. "But that's not to say we're blind."
The focus now is on the positivity rate, which Dubé implied has become a better indicator. Quebec reported a 31.2% positivity rate as of January 5, a level the minister said "had never been seen" in the province.
Quebec is also contending with an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations. On Wednesday, there were more new hospitalizations than ever before during the pandemic.
The latest projections from the Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) show that COVID-19 patients could occupy more than 3,000 hospital beds within the next two weeks, "well above [...] the thresholds observed during previous waves."
Dubé cautioned, however, that that forecast don't yet take into account the effects of the province's latest wave of health measures, including the nightly curfew.
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