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As Quebec reports long waits at testing centres, expert calls for more rapid testing

Covid-19 Rapid Test Device kits at Humber River Hospital in Toronto on Tuesday November 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

MONTREAL — Recent reports of long lineups in front of COVID-19 testing centres in Montreal are just another argument for the need to offer rapid testing across the province, says Maude Laberge, a professor at Universite Laval and a researcher in population health.

“Rapid testing should be available in pharmacies the same way pregnancy tests are available,” Laberge said in an interview Wednesday. “A recent study showed two-thirds of Quebecers with symptoms don’t go get tested, so I think if some tests were accessible easily, that might be an alternative for people who don’t want to wait in line.”

Laberge said the lines outside testing centres might come as a surprise for those who thought vaccination would provide a way out of the pandemic.

“The government sold the idea that the vaccination would get us out of the pandemic because it thought that it would, which is what many people thought as well before the Delta variant,” Laberge said. “We’d like to believe vaccines are 100 per cent effective … but most vaccines are not 100 per cent effective.”

Earlier this week, Quebec started to roll out rapid COVID-19 testing in the province’s elementary schools, but the program to deploy the tests faced criticism from opposition parties and school administrators. Health Minister Christian Dube announced on Tuesday that Daniel Pare, the head of the province’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, was taking over the program to administer the tests in schools.

“I hope that one day we use rapid testing in Canada, in Quebec, the same way they do in Germany or France, where people can just get these rapid tests all the time, they cost nothing to buy, people can do it themselves,” Laberge said. “It would simplify and would reduce the need for testing centres.”

Meanwhile, Quebec reported 785 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and one additional death linked to the novel coronavirus.

The Health Department said the number of hospitalizations linked to the disease rose by 20 from a day earlier, to 250, and 85 people are in intensive care, a rise of seven.

Of the most recent infections, the province said 577 were among unvaccinated people or those who had received only one dose less than 14 days ago.

The province said it administered 14,896 doses of vaccine within the previous 24 hours.

About 88.5 per cent of Quebec residents 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 83.5 per cent are considered adequately vaccinated.