To reduce the risk of outbreaks in workplaces, companies may have access free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests for staff located in Québec. They may submit a request for tests to the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux.
Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should not report to the workplace. Instead they must complete the Symptom Self-Assessment Tool to find out if a nucleic acid amplification test at a testing centre is required.
Advantages and limitations
- give results within a few minutes (the time varies depending on the test);
- are useful for quickly identifying infected people during an outbreak, for example;
- can be taken more easily to people who need to be tested, depending on the type of test;
- are less reliable than tests normally used in a laboratory;
- may fail to detect a significant number of infected people, giving them a negative result even though they are infected and contagious (false negative) and create a false sense of security;
- may give false-positive results for people who are not infected. This is why people who test positive on a rapid antigen test must have their result confirmed by a laboratory test.
Differences between types of tests
On-site rapid molecular tests
|On-site rapid antigen tests|
Health care professional who is authorized to collect specimens
|Health care professional who is authorized to collect specimens and administrative staff||Health care professional who is authorized to collect specimens and administrative staff|
|Test turnaround time|
15 to 30 minutes
|Second test||Not required||Not required|
|Sensitivity (may vary depending on the type of specimen used and in high prevalence areas)|
72% to 91,4%
|What a positive test means||Active infection||Active infection|
Active infection likely
|Main limitations of the test|
All companies and community organizations who have staff working in Québec who cannot do telework because of the nature of their work are eligible.
To obtain rapid tests, the company or organization must:
Access to a health care professional
The company or organization must have access to a health care professional who is duly authorized to collect nasopharyngeal and nasal specimens for their staff. For more information about the health care professionals authorized to collect these specimens, see Order No. 2020-087 of the Minister of Health and Social Services issued on November 4, 2020 (PDF 160 Kb).
The health care professional and staff concerned commit to completing short training sessions on how to use rapid antigen tests and biosafety.
Free and informed consent from staff
The company or organization will be responsible for obtaining free and informed consent from each staff member by:
- informing them of the advantages and limitations of these tests (in French only);
- ensuring that testing is voluntary and not mandatory;
- ensuring that anyone who refuses to be tested will not suffer any prejudice.
Infection prevention and control measures
The company or organization will have the following responsibilities:
- Establish means to ensure strict compliance with infection prevention and control (IPC) measures;
- Remind their staff of the IPC measures in place. For more information, see the INSPQ document COVID-19: Hierarchy of Control Measures in the Workplace – Preventive Measures in the Workplace ;
- Continue to be vigilant in the application of IPC measures. Rapid tests may not be a replacement for these measures under any circumstances;
- Inform staff of the obligation to maintain IPC measures even if their test result is negative.
Test results and follow-up
- The people responsible for testing are informed that an employee who tests positive on a Panbio Rapid Test will be required to have a laboratory test (NAAT) at a testing centre to confirm their test result.
- The company commits to cooperating with local public health authorities in investigations, if any.
- Disclosure of results must comply with confidentiality requirements.
Accept the conditions of use
By taking possession of tests, the company or organization accepts the following conditions:
- The applicant confirms that they have taken note of the limitations of rapid antigen tests in the Advantages and limitations section;
- The applicant has reminded employees of infection prevention and control (IPC) measures (handwashing, physical distancing, masking, etc.);
- The applicant understands that they will have to maintain IPC measures even if test results are negative;
- The applicant agrees not to allow an employee who has symptoms to work;
- The applicant will refer an employee who obtains a positive test result on the rapid test (considered a presumptive result) to a designated testing centre to obtain confirmation of the result by a NAAT test;
- The applicant undertakes to comply with one of the two protocols it has received, that is, the protocol to be deployed in the event of an outbreak or the protocol to be put in place for continuous preventive testing, in order to make the best possible use of rapid tests in accordance with the recommendations of the expert committee that produced the Avis sur l'utilisation des tests rapides au point de service pour la détection de la COVID-19 au Québec [Opinion on the use of rapid tests at points of care to screen for COVID-19 in Québec; French only];
- The applicant undertakes not to sell the rapid tests or to use them for purposes other than testing their staff;
- The applicant undertakes to:
- keep a record of the results of the rapid tests administered;
- provide the register only to the public health authorities in their territory upon request;
- destroy the register after 30 days.
Procedure for submitting a request for tests
Companies and organizations in Québec who would like to have access to rapid antigen tests must submit a request to the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux.
The procedure is simple:
- The company or organization sends an email to:
- The request email must include the following:
- the name of the company or organization;
- their full contact information;
- the number of employees who cannot do telework;
- the name and contact information of a contact person in the company.
- In response to the request, the MSSS sends the person in charge designated by the company or organization an acceptance email that includes:
- the number of tests allocated for a period of one month;
- contact details to arrange for the company or organization to take possession of the tests;
- two model protocols to be put in place (during an outbreak or for continuous preventive use) at the option of the company;
- information on the two mandatory training sessions (test administration and biosafety);
- supporting documents, including one on free and informed consent.
The MSSS reserves the right to withdraw the authorization granted if it considers that the plan has more disadvantages than advantages.
- Avis sur l'utilisation des tests rapides au point de service pour la détection de la COVID-19 au Québec [Opinion on the use of rapid tests at points of care to screen for COVID-19 in Québec; French only] – Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux
- Informations pour une décision libre et éclairée - Test de détection d'antigènes rapides (TDAR) PANBIO (in French only) – Réseau de santé publique en santé au travail
- COVID-19: Hierarchy of Control Measures in the Workplace – Preventive Measures in the Workplace – Institut national de santé publique
Last update: April 23, 2021