MONTREAL -- Montreal will deploy rapid testing for vulnerable neighbourhoods in the city, health authorities announced on Friday.

Rapid tests, which are reportedly less reliable than traditional swab or saliva tests, can provide results without having to send a sample to a lab.

Health Minister Christian Dube has been hesitant to use rapid tests, even going to far as to say Quebec didn’t need them.

Montreal health authorities say the tests are useful to increase screening in areas with higher positivity rates.

Overall, the positivity rate in Montreal is around 8.8 per cent.

While cases have been gradually decreasing in the city, certain neighborhoods, including Montreal-East and Montreal-North, remain hotspots for the virus.

According to Infectious disease specialist Matthew Oughton, who spoke with CTV News on Jan. 19, a positivity rate above 5 per cent is considered to represent a “loss of control.”

“All is to say, certainly we’re not capturing all the cases,” he said.

“We have to increase the screening in [more affected] neighbourhoods,” said Montreal Public Health Director Dr. Mylene Drouin.

Rapid tests will be given only to people with symptoms, she said.

To encourage more people to get tested, the city will also deploy information officers to hand out multilingual flyers and direct people to testing centres.


The city said that infection rates, meaning the amount of people a single person with COVID-19 is likely to infect, have dropped in recent weeks to less than one person per positive case.

“We are seeing that the measures we’ve been working on … are having a positive effect,” said Drouin. “But the situation is still difficult.”

“[We are observing a] reduction of rates among all groups, though cases and deaths among the elderly are still high.”