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Quebecers wait in long lineups for free rapid COVID-19 test kits

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WATCH: Quebecers lined up outside local pharmacies Monday morning hoping to get their hands on free rapid COVID-19 testing kits ahead of the holiday season. As Global's Brayden Jagger Haines reports, demand is outstripping the supply. – Dec 20, 2021

Quebecers lined up outside local pharmacies Monday morning looking to get their hands on free rapid COVID-19 testing kits.

At a Jean-Coutu in Anjou, lines were forming as early at 7 a.m. as people looked to nab one of the 108 available kits.

By 9 a.m., the store’s supply had run out, with a number of people left empty-handed, forced to seek elsewhere.  

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Jean-Coutu customers looking to register online for a testing kit were left confused Monday morning as the website crashed for several hours.

The issue was soon resolved. However, those looking to sign up online face up to four-hour-long wait times in a virtual queue.

Other pharmacies, like Uniprix, are going on a first-come, first-served basis.

But not all stores received their shipment of tests.

At the Centre Commercial Jospeh Renaud-Anjou in Anjou, customers were met with a handwritten sign that read “no test kits were available” and “come back tomorrow.”

Health Minister Christian Dube said in a tweet that quantities are limited by the supply.

Pharmacies as of Tuesday will be asked to post their stock of rapid tests outside the establishments to reduce confusion and long lines.

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Provincewide, 4.3 million tests are being distributed to 1,900 pharmacies. Another two million are being sent to seniors’ homes.

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According to the Quebec Order of Pharmacists, supply is limited, with pharmacies receiving boxes of only 108 kits.

Each kit holds five tests. Anyone over the age of 14 is eligible for one kit per 30-day period to prevent hoarding supply.

“We’re working to send out all of the product. We shipped 100 per cent of what was received,” said Jean-Philippe Blouin, senior vice-president of pharmaceutical distribution for McKesson Canada.

McKesson Canada is currently responsible for 35 per cent of the rapid test shipments across the 1,900 pharmacies in Quebec.

Boulin says they recognize the limited supply is an issue.

“The demand definitely exceeds the supply but what we can guarantee from the wholesaler perspective, we have shipped everything that was available, ” Blouin said.

He reassures those who were left empty-handed that more kits are on the way as shipments will be done daily.

“Pharmacies will expect new quantities every day,” Blouin said.

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