Long lines and little stock as Quebecers rush to pharmacies for at-home rapid tests

·2 min read
Quebecers line up outside a Familiprix in Quebec City in a bid to get a rapid test. (Hadi Hassin/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Quebecers line up outside a Familiprix in Quebec City in a bid to get a rapid test. (Hadi Hassin/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Quebecers are supposed to have access to at-home rapid tests as of Monday — but good luck getting your hands on one.

About 4.3 million free testing kits are rolling out in pharmacies across the province this week. More than 1,900 establishments should be receiving their stock Monday, or Tuesday at the latest, according to the Quebec Order of Pharmacists. 

Both the Jean-Coutu and Brunet chains chose to distribute the tests by appointment only, but both their websites crashed Monday morning. 

Others pharmacies chose to operate on a first-come, first-serve basis, leading to long lines long before the stores opened.

Justin Cicchini, who coaches hockey for teens, chose to wait outside a Pharmaprix on Sainte-Catherine Street early Monday. He said he wants to make sure he has rapid tests handy, in case he develops symptoms.

"Just to be as safe as possible, to ensure that recreational sports can still be ongoing," he said.

Kate McKenna/CBC
Kate McKenna/CBC

Though he said he didn't know if he'd manage to get his hands on a test, he still appreciated having the option.

"It reassured me that rapid tests are going to be given out to a lot of Quebecers today," he said. "I can only hope that it's an effective first step in making sure that things can still stay open in a responsible way."

Some pharmacies may have stock Monday, but not until later in the day. The Quebec Order of Pharmacists said pharmacists will also be handing out the tests in different ways, with some prioritizing more at-risk clients. 

Karine Valiquette, a pharmacist in the town of Les Cèdres, west of Montreal, said her pharmacy is only expecting to get the tests sometime in the afternoon.

"Really, no pharmacy can predict when they'll have the tests available," she told Radio-Canada.

WATCH | What do COVID-19 rapid test results actually mean?

Valiquette said she planned to distribute them on a first-come first-serve basis, and would see how that went. She said her staff would be working to try to distribute the tests equitably.

"If someone comes with four Medicare cards for a family of four, even if the four people have the right to the tests, we may ask if it's okay if we give two and they come back later," she said, as an example.

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