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COVID-19: Rapid tests for kids to be distributed in schools as cases soar above 1,800

Click to play video: 'Rapid testing now as easy as ABC for elementary school students' Rapid testing now as easy as ABC for elementary school students
WATCH: If you have a child in elementary or pre-school, they will soon be coming home with rapid COVID-19 tests in their backpack. With the holidays on the horizon, Quebec is deploying the tests to kids all across the province. Dan Spector has the details – Dec 9, 2021

Quebec is reporting 1,807 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, a number not seen since early April.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé told reporters in Quebec City that a surge in cases was expected.

“We’re within the previsions,” he said of recent modelling by the province’s institute of public health (INSPQ). “What is important is to look at is hospitalizations.”

Read more: COVID-19: Quebec confirms 5 infections linked to Omicron variant, 7 cases under investigation

While hospitalizations increased by 13 to 255 on Thursday, Dubé indicated the situation was still under control.

Of the 255 patients, 60 are being treated in intensive care units.

Dubé urged those who are eligible to get their third dose or booster shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, repeating vaccination offers the best protection against the virus.

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Dubé also noted most of the new cases were among children between the ages of five and 11 who are not yet vaccinated and their parents.

Read more: COVID-19: Quebec to loosen private gathering rules for vaccinated people 2 days before Christmas

He explained that with the vaccination of kids in that age group currently underway, it will eventually have an impact on the number of cases down the road.

So far, 221,126 kids in the five-to-11 bracket have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 82,180 have booked an appointment.

Click to play video: 'Quebec to allow larger holiday gatherings and more eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine boosters' Quebec to allow larger holiday gatherings and more eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine boosters
Quebec to allow larger holiday gatherings and more eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine boosters – Dec 7, 2021

The Health Ministry also announced that starting this week, rapid testing kits will be distributed to school boards in regions where the epidemiological situation is of greater concern so that parents can test their children at home when they show possible COVID-19 symptoms.

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The regions being targeted are Montreal, Eastern Townships, Chaudière-Appalaches, Lanaudière and the Laurentians. School boards in other regions will be receiving kits to distribute to parents starting next week.

“It will be available for kids at the primary level. 600,000 of them will be available in the next two weeks,” Dubé said.

Daycare centres began receiving kits for distribution this week.

At school or pre-school, each child will be given five tests to bring home in their school bag, along with instructions for parents.

If the test is positive, the government wants parents to bring children to a testing centre to confirm the result using a more accurate PCR test.

While many parents are happy about the rollout of rapid testing for school children, some questions remain.

Olivier Drouin, who runs COVID Écoles Québec — a website tracking outbreaks in schools across the province — worries the tests will come to late for the holidays.

“They have to be distributed to service centres, who in turn need to distribute them to schools, who in turn need to distribute them to parents,” he said, adding kids represent about 60 per cent of all the outbreaks in the province.

Read more: Millions of unused rapid COVID-19 tests prompt calls for greater access to free swabs across Canada

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The clarity of the instructions is another concern.

“If you don’t wait long enough you might not give time for the appearance of a true positive test line, so you might have a false negative result,” said Dr. Jesse Papenburg, a pediatric infectious diseases expert. “If you wait too long, you might wind up getting a false positive test result.”

There are also questions about when rapid testing will be more widely available.

“The parents cannot go to the pharmacy or drugstore and get a rapid test for free, like in most geographies in the world,” Drouin said.

Dubé says availability depends on shipments from the federal government but Papenburg thinks it would be a good idea to see how this round goes before any expansion.

To date, the province has recorded 460,233 infections, 436,551 recoveries and 11,597 deaths, including one in the last day.

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