COVID-19 Testing


There are a variety of COVID-19 testing options available in Ontario. Find out what option you are eligible for below.


Molecular Testing


Eligibility

In order to receive a molecular test, which includes both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and rapid point-of-care (POC) testing, you must meet the current eligibility set out by the province.

You are eligible for PCR or rapid POC molecular testing if you have COVID-19 symptoms and are any of the following:

  • Aged 18 and over who are immunocompromised (have an immune system that is weakened by a health condition or medication)
  • Aged 70 and over
  • Aged 60 and over with fewer than three vaccine doses
  • Aged 18 and over with fewer than three vaccine doses and at least one risk condition (e.g. a chronic medical condition)
  • A patient-facing health care worker
  • A patient in an emergency department, at the discretion of the treating clinician
  • A staff member, volunteer, resident, inpatient, essential care provider, or visitor in the highest risk setting
  • A home and community care worker
  • A Provincial Demonstration School and hospital school worker
  • Someone who lives with a patient-facing health care worker and/or a worker in the highest risk settings
  • An outpatient being considered for COVID-19 treatment
  • An outpatient who requires a diagnostic test for clinical management
  • A temporary foreign worker living in a congregate setting
  • Underhoused or experiencing homelessness
  • Pregnant
  • A first responder, including firefighters, police and paramedics
  • An elementary or secondary student or education staff who has received a PCR self-collection kit, if available through your school
  • Other individuals as directed by the local public health unit based on outbreak investigations in high risk settings, etc.

Whether you have symptoms or not, you are eligible for PCR or rapid POC molecular testing if you:

  • Are an individual from a First Nation, Inuit, Métis community, and/or who self-identifies as First Nation, Inuit, and Métis and their household members
  • Are an individual travelling into First Nation, Inuit, Métis communities for work
  • Are being admitted or transferred to or from a hospital or congregate living setting
  • Are a close contact of someone in a confirmed or suspected outbreak in a highest risk setting, or other settings as directed by the local public health unit
  • Have written prior approval for out-of-country medical services from the General Manager of OHIP or are a caregiver for someone who does
  • Are in a hospital, long-term care, retirement home or other congregate living setting, as directed by public health units, provincial guidance or other directives

Where to Get Tested or Assessed

Publicly funded PCR testing is available to eligible individuals at assessment centres, participating community labs and participating pharmacies across Ontario.

Chatham-Kent COVID-19 Assessment Centre

10 Grand Ave. West, Chatham Ontario 
7 days a week 
9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Book a CK Assessment Centre Appointment

Pharmacies 

Participating pharmacies offer various testing options to eligible individuals, including:

  • In-store lab-based PCR testing, by appointment only
  • Self-collection lab-based PCR kits, with no appointment necessary. Eligible individuals will be able to pick-up a lab-based PCR self-collection kit at a participating pharmacy, conduct the specimen collection at-home, and then return the collected specimen to the pharmacy to be sent for processing in a lab

Participating pharmacies can choose which of these testing options are offered at their stores and not every participating pharmacy site will offer all services.

Find a Participating Pharmacy

Getting Your PCR Test Result

On average, most PCR test results are ready within 48 hours of your test. This is not guaranteed and could take longer.

Depending on the testing location, you may be able to get your result:

  • Online on the Test Results Website if you have a photo (green) health card
  • On another website that the testing location will tell you about
  • By phone

The testing location will give you instructions that are specific to your situation.

Check Your Test Results

Rapid Antigen Testing


How They Work

Rapid antigen tests (RAT) detect certain proteins in the virus to confirm the presence of COVID-19. A sample, which can be self-collected, is taken using a swab in the nose and/or throat or nasopharynx (behind your nose and above the back of your throat) and can produce a result in as little as 15 minutes.

Positive results from rapid antigen tests should be treated as confirmed cases of COVID-19 and do not need to be verified by a PCR test. If you receive a positive result, you must isolate.


Where Can You Get Them?

General Public
Free rapid testing kits are available to the general public for at-home use. Participating grocery and pharmacy locations currently provide free rapid antigen tests to the general public.

Schools & Child Care
Rapid antigen tests are also being provided to student and staff in public elementary and secondary schools, along with children and staff in child care settings.

Priority Sectors and Workplaces
Ontario continue to distribute rapid antigen tests to priority sectors and workplaces to help prevent worker shortages and to provide an additional layer of protection in these settings. This includes organizations that are required to have a vaccine policy with a testing component under Directive #6, such as hospitals, paramedics and home and community care.

Businesses
Rapid antigen tests continue to be available through the Provincial Antigen Screening Program for any organization permitted to be open and that has employees working on-site. This includes organizations and sectors outside of the priority settings, such as small and medium-sized businesses.


When To Test

Rapid antigen tests can be used for the following reasons:

  • For "test-to-work" purposes to meet critical workforce needs in the highest risk settings
    Test-to-work is a strategy to support work-self isolation in critical work shortages, in which staff are able to return to work when they would otherwise be on self-isolation at home (for example, after exposure to someone with COVID-19).
  • For screening people without symptoms
    Frequent, repeated rapid antigen testing of people without symptoms and without known exposure to someone with COVID-19, with the goal of identifying cases that have yet to show symptoms or have no symptoms.
  • For testing people with symptoms
    When used by people with symptoms, rapid antigen tests can help them know how likely it is that the symptoms are caused by COVID-19 and whether or not they should isolate. A positive test result is highly indicative that you have COVID-19 and that you must isolate. If you have two negative rapid antigen tests taken 24-48 hours apart, then it is less likely that you have COVID-19. You should isolate until you have no fever and your symptoms are improving for 24 hours (or 48 hours if experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms).

Clinical Assessments


When to Visit a Clinical Assessment Centre

Clinical assessment centres can assess, test and provide treatment options for COVID-19.

You should visit one if you know or suspect that you have COVID-19 symptoms and one of the following applies to you:

  • You have been directed by your primary care provider or other health care professional
  • You are unable to safely monitor your symptoms at home
  • You are at higher risk of severe illness

You may be at higher risk of severe illness if you:

  • Are immunocompromised (have an immune system that is weakened by a health condition or medications)
  • Are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or have not received a booster dose
  • Have one or more risk factors, such as a long-term medical condition or being of older age
  • Are Indigenous, Black or a member of another racialized community.

You do not need to be eligible for PCR testing to visit a clinical assessment centre.

If you have one or more of the following symptoms, you should immediately call 911 or go to the emergency department:

  • Severe difficulty breathing (struggling for each breath, can only speak in single words)
  • Severe chest pain (constant tightness or crushing sensation)
  • Feeling confused or unsure of where you are
  • Losing consciousness

Antiviral Treatment (Paxlovid)

The following higher-risk groups are eligible to be tested and assessed for antiviral treatments, such as Paxlovid, in Ontario:

  • Individuals aged 18 and over who are immunocompromised (have an immune system that is weakened by a health condition or medications)
  • Individuals aged 70 and over
  • Individuals aged 60 and over with fewer than three vaccine doses
  • Individuals aged 18 and over with fewer than three vaccine doses and at least one risk condition (e.g. a chronic medical condition)

Where to Get a Clinical Assessment

The Chatham-Kent COVID-19 Assessment Centre (10 Grand Ave, Chatham ON) offers clinical assessments for individuals with worsening COVID-19 symptoms and/or those who have been advised by their Family Physician or Nurse Practitioner that they require an assessment and diagnosis for their symptoms.


Booking an Appointment

Pre-booked appointments for clinical assessments can be made through the online booking tool at: www.assessmentbooking.ca or at 519-436-2556. Please select COVID Assessment Clinic (CAC) in the online tool.


Still Not Sure?

Take our self-assessment to help you decide what to do or speak with your health care provider if you are unsure whether any of the above criteria applies to you.

Need more information? Read the latest provincial testing guidance (PDF). 


Types of Tests for COVID-19

 PCR TestRapid Antigen Test
What it does:Tests to see if someone currently has COVID-19.
Tests to see if someone currently has COVID-19.
When to use:PCR tests are used to diagnose people currently experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

You must qualify under the new testing guidelines updated by Ontario.
Rapid antigen tests are recommended for the following uses:

For "test-to-work" purposes to meet critical workforce needs in the highest risk settings.

For people without symptoms as screening.

For people with symptoms consistent with Covid-19.
How long it takes:Results typically take 24 hours to 7 days.

PCR tests are sent to a lab for processing. Processing times vary depending on the volume of tests.

Results take approximately 15 minutes.
Accuracy: Highly accurate and considered to be the gold-standard of COVID-19 testing.

Rapid antigen tests are not as accurate as diagnostic tests (PCR test).
Where to get the test:Through the local Assessment Centre or a participating pharmacy.

Please note: pharmacy testing is only available for individuals who do not have symptoms, who have not been in close contact with a confirmed case, and are not part of a specific outbreak investigation.

Rapid antigen tests are available for free to the general public at participating grocery and pharmacy locations, at schools and child care, priority sectors and workplaces and businesses.
If you test positive:After Public Health learns that someone has tested positive for COVID-19, we contact them as soon as possible to:
• Share the test results,
• Help them get care they may need,
• Provide information about what they should do, and
• Answer any questions they have.
Then, we start to work on contact tracing, the process of gathering information about everyone the person with the virus had contact with during the time the virus could be passed on to others. LEARN MORE.

A positive Rapid Antigen Test is highly indicative that a symptomatic individual has Covid-19, and the individual and their household are required to self-isolate. Positive Rapid Antigen tests no longer require confirmatory PCR/rapid molecular testing or reporting to public health.
If you test negativeIf you work or live in a high risk-health care setting, including hospitals, long-term care, retirement homes, congregate living settings, you must notify your employer and isolate for 10 days from your exposure or symptom onset, or from your date of diagnosis. To ensure sufficient staffing levels, workers in these settings will have the opportunity to return to work early on day seven of their isolation, with a negative PCR test, or two negative rapid antigen tests on day six and seven.If two consecutive RATs, separated by 24-48 hours, are both negative, the symptomatic individual is less likely to be infected, and the individual is advised to self-isolate until symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if gastrointestinal symptoms).