Rapid tests

To reduce the risk of outbreaks in workplaces, companies may have access free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests for staff located in Québec. PanbioMC tests with nasal swabs are preferred. 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 This hyperlink will open in a new window. to find out if a nucleic acid amplification test at a testing centre is required.

Advantages and limitations

Rapids tests:

  • 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

CharacteristicsLaboratory tests

On-site rapid molecular tests

On-site rapid antigen tests
Names
  • Diagnostic test
  • Nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT)
  • Real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction)
  • ID NOW
  • LAMP test (loop-mediated isothermal amplification)
  • PanbioMC (preferred tests)
  • BD VeritorMC
Specimen collection
  • Nasopharyngeal
  • Nasal
  • Throat
  • Saliva (sputum or gargle)
  • Nasopharyngeal
  • Nasal
  • Throat
  • Saliva (sputum or gargle)
  • Nasopharyngeal
  • Nasal (swab preferred)
Staff required

Health care professional who is authorized to collect specimens

  • Designated testing clinic
  • Designated assessment clinic
  • Hospital centre
Health care professional who is authorized to collect specimens and administrative staffPerson designated by the company or organization and has completed training provided under the authority of the MSSS
Test turnaround time
  • 1 to 3 hours
  • More than 83% of results are released in less than 24 hours

15 minutes

15 to 30 minutes

Second test required to establish the diagnosisNot requiredNot required

Test required

Sensitivity (may vary depending on the type of specimen used and in high prevalence areas)

99%

95%

72% to 91,4%

What a positive test meansActive infectionActive infection

Active infection likely

Main limitations of the test
  • Very reliable, especially if a person is symptomatic.
  • May remain positive even when a person has had the disease and is no longer contagious or ill.
  • Very reliable, especially if a person is symptomatic.
  • May remain positive even when a person has had the disease and is no longer contagious or ill.
  • Less reliable.
  • May miss cases of infection and incorrectly indicate that someone has COVID-19.

Eligibility

All companies and community organizations who have staff working in Québec who cannot do telework because of the nature of their work are eligible.

Have a designated person who has completed training provided under the authority of the MSSS

The company or organization must designate at least one person who agrees to complete training on the use of rapid antigen tests and biosecurity. This training is provided under the authority of the MSSS.

Free and informed consent from staff

The company or organization will be responsible for obtaining free and informed consent from each staff member by:

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 This hyperlink will open in a new window.;
  • 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 designated and trained for testing are informed that an employee who tests positive on a PanbioMC Rapid Test will be required to have a laboratory test (NAAT) at a testing centre to confirm their test result.
  • Employees must be informed that they, along with anyone who lives in their household who is not fully protected, must self-isolate while awaiting a test result. A person is considered fully protected in one of the following situations:
    • they have received a second dose of vaccine 7 days or more ago;
    • they had COVID-19 less than 6 months or less ago;
    • they had COVID-19 more than 6 months ago and received a dose of vaccine 7 days or more ago.
  • 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 ensure that one of the individuals who has been trained and designated responsible is present at all times during screening operations;
  • The applicant will refer an employee who obtains a positive 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;
  • 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:

  1. The company or organization sends an email to:
    testsrapidesentreprises@msss.gouv.qc.ca
  2. The request email must include the following:
    • the name of the company or organization;
    • their full contact information (street address, city, postal code, telephone number);
    • the number of employees who cannot do telework;
    • the full name, title, e-mail and telephone number of the person who made the request on behalf of the company;
    • the full name, title, e-mail and telephone number of each designated person who must complete the MSSS training.
  3. 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 mandatory training sessions;
    • supporting documents, including one on free and informed consent.
  4. To get more supplies, repeat septs 1 and 2 of this section by attaching the acceptance email of the previous request.

The MSSS reserves the right to withdraw the authorization granted if it considers that the plan has more disadvantages than advantages.