Quebec eased up on COVID-19 restrictions this week — right as it announced that more variants of the virus have arrived, with two patients infected with the South African variant.
Authorities said in their daily briefing that in this new era, testing is key, and not just in terms of increased DNA sequencing of test samples to track the variants.
Premier François Legault also had a favour to ask: if you start showing signs of COVID-19, head to a testing centre immediately, he said in his daily briefing Tuesday.
“People, on average, wait over two days before they go get tested,” said Legault, describing recent Quebec statistics.
“It’s much too late,” he said. “As soon as you have symptoms, you should go get tested. We have a lot of testing capacity, it doesn’t take long, and it doesn’t take long, either, to get the results.”
TRACKING THE VARIANTS
Not all COVID-19 samples are tested to see if they’re the old variant, or one of the new, more dangerous variants. But Quebec is also ramping up its ability to try to keep track of the variants, said Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda.
To do that surveillance, a certain percentage of overall samples are randomly, or semi-randomly, selected to have their DNA sequenced, to see which variant of COVID-19 they are.
“We have increased, in Quebec, the capacity to 8 per cent of the samples,” said Arruda. Then “we will be reaching 10, we believe, then 15” per cent.
That’s an achievement compared to the rest of North America, he said. Other Canadian provinces are testing about 3 per cent of samples to check for variants, while in the U.S. the average is about 1 per cent.
It should put Quebec in a good position to keep track, he said, especially because the samples are not taken completely and random and “we apply criteria with people who have come back from travelling abroad.”
Quebec authorities had previously announced there were eight variant cases in the province, all of the U.K. variant.
Now, two more variants have arrived: one from South Africa and one that’s still under investigation to see exactly what it is.