To reduce the risk of outbreaks in workplaces, companies will be able to 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. This means they will have tests in reserve so that they can initiate a screening protocol when a first employee develops symptoms of COVID-19.
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:
- have access to a health care professional;
- obtain free and informed consent from their staff;
- put infection prevention and control measures in place;
- manage test results and follow-up.
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, biosafety and how to use the online query tool to enter test results.
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 or organization commits to entering data on the use of Panbio tests into the MSSS’s online query tool so that statistics can be compiled in the provincial database and quality traceability ensured.
- The company commits to cooperating with local public health authorities in investigations, if any.
- Disclosure of results must comply with confidentiality requirements.
Procedure for submitting a testing plan
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 by sending the completed form to the following address: email@example.com.
“Rapid antigen testing plan” form (PDF 151 Kb) (in French only)
Requests will be forwarded to the Direction régionale de santé publique in the region where the company is located. After assessing the appropriateness and feasibility of the plans submitted, the public health authorities will be able to grant authorization to companies or organizations who would like to conduct testing for their staff and give them access to tests. On the basis of the information received, a testing protocol will be submitted to the company to ensure it makes the best possible use of rapid tests based on the recommendations of the expert committee responsible for 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 company or organization will have to commit to following it.
In summary, the steps are as follows:
- The company or organization completes and submits the testing plan form.
- They are sent an acknowledgement of receipt.
- The MSSS receives the form and sends it to the relevant public health authorities. If the company or organization has multiple points of care, the request will be examined by the MSSS.
- The public health authorities assess the appropriateness and feasibility of the plan and discuss it with the company or organization, if necessary.
- The company or organization is informed of the decision and is provided with relevant information regarding the implementation of the plan, where applicable.
- If the company’s or organization’s plan is approved, they are provided with rapid tests and additional information on the use of the tests and training.
The MSSS reserves the right to withdraw the authorization granted by the institution 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 pour les personnes sans symptôme, en dehors du contexte d’enquête cas contacts [Information for a free and informed decision for people without symptoms, outside the context of contact tracing; 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
- “Rapid antigen testing plan” form (PDF 151 Kb) (in French only)
Last update: February 19, 2021