Rapid COVID-19 tests coming to Saguenay, where situation remains 'fragile'

Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean will be one of the first regions in the province to get rapid tests, as part of new efforts to get the virus under control in the hard-hit region.

Dr. Horacia Arruda says public still needs to follow guidelines to bring down case numbers

Quebec's director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, says people need to stay home and limit their contacts to protect themselves and others. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada)

Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean will be one of the first regions in the province to get rapid COVID-19 tests, as part of new efforts to get the coronavirus under control in the hard-hit region.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province's public health director, said Friday he expects the tests to be available by the middle of December.

Like other provinces, Quebec has been slow to deploy rapid tests as it figures out how to best use them.

Arruda described them as another "tool" in the fight against the pandemic.

"They must be used in the right way," he said at a news conference in Saguenay, explaining that rapid tests could be used to do a screening of the broader population.

Arruda said the situation in Saguenay is "very fragile," but said "there is hope." 

He once again urged the public to follow the guidelines: hand-washing, distancing and limiting contacts.

"Please count the number of people you have had contact with in a day, and reduce that number."

The tone of the news conference was slightly more upbeat than a week earlier, when local health officials warned the situation was nearing a tipping point.

The number of new cases has hovered between 100 and 200 a day, below some of the daily counts seen last week.

Andrée Laforest, Quebec's minister responsible for the region, who was also at the news conference, said the situation appears to be improving but that the health network is still strained. 

Nurses and doctors have sounded the alarm that the pandemic has made staffing difficult in the region, particularly in Chicoutimi.

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