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Coronavirus: Quebec challenged on lack of rapid testing

A nurse holds a swab before testing a patient in Ottawa on Nov. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The Quebec government is being criticized for not using the rapid COVID-19 tests it has available. Some experts say the province could be doing a lot more screening and catching cases earlier.

READ MORE: Quebec Liberal leader calls for massive coronavirus testing strategy as schools reopen

During Monday’s press conference, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said the province doesn’t need to use the rapid tests because it has enough regular PCR tests and these tests are more efficient.

“We have been able now to test 35,000, 40,000 a day and even more than that. We don’t need additional tests,” Dubé said.

However, Fatima Tokhmafshan, a geneticist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre said the rapid tests are more than 87 per cent accurate.

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READ MORE: ‘The impacts are huge’: Quebec hospitals pushed to the limit as coronavirus patients increase

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The rapid tests take between 30 to 40 minutes to conduct and receive the result. Tokhmafshan explained that they may need to be used multiple times for the same person because the window of detection is shorter than the regular PCR test. That being said, the geneticist described how they are ideal for widespread screening to detect positive cases in people who are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic before there is an outbreak.

“If we were doing it right, before we had opened the schools this week, we would have deployed those tests, tested every single kid that’s going back to school, in elementary school, once or maybe even twice,” she said.

READ MORE: Montreal study claims schools major vector for COVID-19 transmission

“The ones that tested positive would have stayed home in order to basically clear their infections and the ones that were negative, they could have gone back to class. And that way again, you stop the chain of transmission.”

Tokhmafshan said this is what is being done in Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, among other countries.

She added that widespread massive testing would also be useful to detect new variants of the virus.

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