Although PCR tests remain the most accurate and reliable form of test to detect SARS-COV-2, rapid antigen tests can be used for individuals suspected of having COVID-19 during the first week following the start of symptoms. The use of such tests on asymptomatic individuals is not currently validated. As such, hygiene measures such as physical distancing, mask wearing and self-monitoring of symptoms should remain in full effect and be diligently adhered to.
The Quebec health authorities recommend using rapid antigen screens in the following contexts:
- To help users return to their daily activities if PCR test results take longer than 12hrs to obtain;
- To reach a community that is marginalized or does not frequent the government network of health and social services establishments;
- In the instance of a major outbreak in a workplace or senior and assisted living facilities;
- When demand exceeds supply of PCR testing capacity, even after the optimized deployment of the ID NOW systems;
- Other scenarios are also possible as part of pilot projects or research projects.
No guidance is currently available on specimen collection.
Conducting the Test
Rapid screens must be conducted by qualified and trained medical personnel who must be able to provide explanations on the test’s limitations to the person being tested (screened).
A positive rapid screening test result must be reported immediately to the Quebec public health authorities.
PCR tests results must be associated with the rapid antigen screening test that preceded it before being reported together to Quebec public health authorities or infectious disease prevention officers.
For the purposes of reporting to Quebec public health authorities, information must be collected on the place where the test is being conducted, history of potential exposure to COVID-19 and whether the person is symptomatic or asymptomatic.