Quebec begins gradual distribution of 6.3 million rapid tests Monday

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In Quebec, pharmacists will be in charge of handing out 4.3 million rapid tests as of Monday. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
In Quebec, pharmacists will be in charge of handing out 4.3 million rapid tests as of Monday. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Nearly 2,000 Quebec pharmacies will begin distributing rapid tests Monday, though it remains unclear who will have access to them and how.

The provincial health ministry has said the tests would be rolled out gradually, with about 4.3 million going to pharmacies and two million going to seniors' homes.

The Quebec Order of Pharmacists has said the 1,900 pharmacies set to distribute the tests will be receiving a first box of 108 kits of five tests as of Monday, or Tuesday at the latest.

Health Minister Christian Dubé said Quebecers will be eligible for one kit of five tests each for now.

"This measure comes in the context of the increase in the number of cases and the appearance of the new Omicron variant, which appears to be more contagious than Delta," Dubé said earlier this week.

Dubé didn't say how pharmacists would be handing out the tests and whether they would be available to everyone.

The tests are shipments from the federal government, with more expecting to arrive later this month or in January.

The order of pharmacists has said pharmacists will be handing out the tests in different ways, with some prioritizing more at-risk clients.

Quebec Premier François Legault suggested families use the rapid tests before gathering over the holidays.

On Thursday, the premier announced gatherings would be limited to 10 people from a maximum of three households. Store and restaurant capacities have also been reduced.

The measures came as projections from the provincial government health-care research institute, INESS, showed as many as 700 Quebecers could be in hospital due to the virus by early January, with about 160 of them in intensive care.

Ontario began its rollout of rapid tests earlier this week, handing them out on a first-come, first-served basis at provincial-run liquor stores across the province.

The distribution caused a frenzy with long lineups and the tests running out hours after they became available.

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