Quebec does not intend to use the two million Panbio rapid tests that the federal government will provide and pass them on mainly to companies that request them. ID Now tests, considered more effective, will be deployed to detect symptomatic young people.
Unlike Ontario, which recently ordered nine million Panbio rapid antigen tests from Abbott Canada, Quebec is reluctant to use those sent by the Trudeau government.
In fact, the health network now responds amply to the demand for traditional screening, said Assistant Deputy Minister Marie-Ève Bédard, during a technical briefing on Monday. Now, 83% of people tested receive a result within 24 hours.
“If we compare ourselves, for example, to our neighbors in Ontario, in large centers, they are able only 40% of the time to give a result in less than 24 hours,” she argues. The neighboring province has therefore chosen to come “to compensate for a lack of detection”, adds Mme Bedard.
In addition, rapid tests are considered inefficient: 1 in 3 infected people will not be detected, explained the doctor specializing in public health and preventive medicine from the Ministry of Health, Isabelle Goupil-Sormany. Worse, they require a lot of resources and offer a false sense of security, say government experts.
Despite Quebec’s reluctance, large companies have shown interest in using these tools to try to contain the spread of COVID-19 among their employees.
Air Canada will therefore perform recurring screening twice a week. The federal government will oversee the protocol, but Quebec will provide the equipment. For its part, Rio Tinto Alcan will resort to it in the event of outbreaks within its walls.
Quebec could also provide the material to other companies where a few employees are showing the first symptoms of COVID-19, to determine if an outbreak is underway.
Despite everything, the Dre Goupil-Sormany did not hide her skepticism about these solutions, which are the subject of a lobby, according to her. “There is really a lot of money to be made with the tests”, underlines the scientist.
Testing young people
The situation is quite different with some 200,000 ID Now tests received from Ottawa. “It is a very good machine which does not give false positives and very few false negatives”, argues Dre Goupil-Sormany.
From the end of March, these devices will therefore be used to test 8,000 symptomatic people per day in screening centers, especially to detect the virus in schoolchildren. For the moment, Quebec is still waiting to receive the “reagents” necessary to operate these devices. “This will allow us to intervene with much more agility, quickly within the class,” explains Marie-Ève Bédard.