What you need to know about getting a COVID-19 rapid test in Ontario

Ontario residents can get COVID-19 rapid tests at select pop-up locations and LCBO stores across the province as of Dec. 17.

The distribution of about two million rapid tests is part of the province’s “enhanced testing strategy” over the holidays.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is a rapid test?

Individuals can use a rapid antigen tests to swab inside their nostril in order to detect proteins of the virus in the body. It can take 15 to 20 minutes to get the results.

Officials have said that a rapid test is not the equivalent of a PCR test, and cannot be used as a diagnosis for COVID-19. They are often used in asymptomatic cases for screening purposes.

The free test kits being provided by the province have five swabs inside as well as vials of reagent that are used to complete the test.

The free rapid tests can only be picked up by individuals who do not have COVID-19 symptoms or who have not recently been in contact with a COVID-19 case.

Where can I get it?

From December to mid-January, residents can get their rapid tests free of charge at high-traffic locations such as malls, retail settings, holiday markets, public libraries and transit hubs.

Appointments are not necessary to access a pop-up site, however the government website says that access will be subject to supply. There is a limit of one test kit per person.

Most sites will distribute take-home kits and others will offer testing on-site.

Take-home kits are also available at numerous LCBO locations. On Friday a spokesperson for the minister of health said that kits were distributed to about 100 stores across the province.

For a full list of pop-up testing locations where free rapid tests are being distributed, as well as LCBO stores, click here.

Officials have said that individuals picking up a box of rapid tests will need to do so at checkout through a cashier, but they are not obligated to buy any alcohol.

However, the agency is updating their social media page frequently and said Friday afternoon that many stores are already out of supply.

Rapid test kits are also available to purchase at pharmacies. At Shoppers Drug Mart, for example, residents can purchase a rapid test for about $40.

What happens if I test positive?

If you receive a positive result from a rapid test, you must self-isolate and follow up with a PCR test to confirm the diagnosis.

“Any location that performs on-site rapid antigen screening will also offer a confirmatory PCR test for individuals who receive a positive antigen result,” Ontario’s website says.

The PCR test must be done within 48 hours of a positive rapid antigen test.

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