Quebec hopes to receive 10 million rapid testing kits from Ottawa before holidays

Quebec has asked for 10 million rapid tests from the federal government, and Health Minister Christian Dubé says he hopes to receive them before the Christmas holidays.

It is not clear how many, if any, tests will be available before the Christmas holidays

Rapid COVID-19 testing has spurred pop-up businesses in Quebec, but the quick service isn't cheap. In the United States, home testing kits sell for $10 to $15 USD a piece. (The Canadian Press)

Quebec has asked for 10 million rapid tests from the federal government and Health Minister Christian Dubé says he hopes to receive them before the Christmas holidays.

If there are enough available after the priority groups are served, the rest will be made available to the general population for free, officials announced during Tuesday's news conference.

Along with other public health measures such as mask wearing and vaccination campaigns, rapid antigen testing is touted by as a way to quickly screen for probable COVID-19 cases at home or work.

Rapid tests, which provide results in as little as 15 minutes, can help identify people who may be infected with COVID-19, but have no symptoms. 

However, it's not yet clear how widely distributed the rapid tests will be during the holidays — a technique families and workplaces use in some countries and provinces to reduce the risk of being in close contact with somebody who has COVID-19 but is asymptomatic.

For now, the Quebec government is focusing on distributing the rapid testing kits currently in stock to public and subsidized daycares. More than 1.5 million tests were to be sent out as of last week.

"Because that is where our unvaccinated children are," said Dubé.

Rapid tests aren't as precise as PCR tests, but they are faster and more convenient. There's been a push in recent months to make the do-it-at-home tests more accessible to Canadians.

In the United States, rapid home testing kits are available for purchase at stores for roughly $10 to $15 apiece. Meanwhile in Quebec, some businesses are offering the private testing service for around $100.

Some Canadian provinces have been providing rapid testing kits to certain public sectors.

For example, in May, chambers of commerce throughout Ontario began offering free rapid tests to small- and medium-sized businesses for the purpose of regular asymptomatic COVID-19 testing.

Now, some chambers are reporting their rapid test programs for businesses have caught dozens of probable COVID-19 cases.

Quebec already has nearly four million rapid testing kits in storage and there's no worries about the kits expiring any time soon, according to a spokesperson for the Health Ministry.

These kits are slated to be used for screening of unvaccinated health-care workers as well as employees of private companies and community organizations, said Marie-Louise Harvey in an email.

The tests will be distributed to places like remote communities and provincial jails, she said. And more than 1.8 million of those testing kits will be distributed to daycares, Harvey said.

Daniel Paré, head of Quebec's COVID-19 vaccination campaign, said the Legault government is prioritizing early childcare educators.

The second focus will be primary schools if the new shipment of rapid tests is received before Christmas break. Three million tests will be designated for this age group,said Paré.

"Because, again, this is a group that has not had its two doses," he said.

"If we receive other rapid tests, we will make them available to the general population by the holidays." 

with files from Radio-Canada