If you have COVID‑19 symptoms and are at a higher risk of severe illness, you should get tested for COVID‑19 (by molecular or rapid antigen test) and seek care as soon as possible as you may benefit from available COVID‑19 treatments. These treatments must be taken immediately within the first five to seven days (depending on the treatment) of symptom onset.

Find out if antiviral treatment may be right for you.

Overview

If you have questions related to COVID‑19 testing and isolation guidelines, please call the Provincial Testing and Isolation Information line at 1-888-777-0730.

There are two main publicly-funded types of COVID‑19 test available in Ontario:

Molecular testing

Both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and rapid molecular tests can confirm if you have COVID‑19. They are collected by a health care professional, or another trained individual, who swab your nose or throat.  At home PCR self-collection tests are also available and can be used by individuals to perform the test at home and be dropped off at a testing location for processing.  

PCR samples are sent to a lab to be tested and you get the results in a couple days. Samples taken during rapid molecular testing do not need to be sent to a lab and results are generally available the same day.

Eligibility for PCR or rapid molecular testing

If you are at higher risk of severe outcomes of COVID‑19, you are eligible for PCR or rapid molecular testing and should seek out testing as soon as possible if you develop symptoms.

You are eligible for PCR or rapid molecular testing if you have COVID‑19 symptoms and belong to any of the following groups:

  • People aged 60 years of age and older
  • People aged 18 years of age and older who have at least one condition that puts them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease
  • People aged 18 years of age and older who are unvaccinated or have not completed their first round of vaccinations (e.g., their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines)
  • People aged 18 years of age and older who have received their first round of vaccinations (or primary series) AND received their last COVID-19 vaccine dose more than 6 months ago AND have not had a COVID-19 infection in the past 6 months
  • People who are immunocompromised
  • Pregnant people
  • Patients seeking emergency medical care or other outpatients where the health care professional judges it to be necessary
  • Health care workers providing patient care
  • Staff, volunteers, residents/inpatients, essential care providers, and visitors in highest risk settings including hospitals and congregate living settings with medically and socially vulnerable individuals, including international agriculture workers.
  • Household members of staff in highest risk settings and patient-facing health care workers
  • Home and community care workers
  • People who are underhoused or experiencing homelessness
  • First responders, including firefighters, police and paramedics

You are also eligible for PCR or rapid molecular testing if you belong to any of the following groups whether you have symptoms or not:

  • Individuals who are from a First Nation, Inuit, Métis community, and/or who self-identify as First Nation, Inuit, and Métis, and their household members
  • Individuals travelling into First Nation, Inuit, Métis communities for work
  • On admission/transfer to or from hospital or congregate living settingfootnote 1
  • People in the context of confirmed or suspected outbreaks in highest risk settings as directed by the local public health unit
  • Individuals, and one accompanying caregiver, with written prior approval for out-of-country medical services from the General Manager, Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)
  • Any patient with a scheduled surgical procedure requiring a general anaesthetic 24-48 hours prior to procedure date
  • Newborns born to people with confirmed COVID-19 at the time of birth within 24 hours of delivery, with a repeat test at 48 hours after birth if baseline test is negative, or if the parental test results are pending at the time of discharge
  • People 24-48 hours prior to treatment for cancer or prior to hemodialysis, at the discretion of the treating clinician
  • Staff of highest risk settings who, within the last 10 days, have had close contact with an individual with symptoms compatible with COVID-19 or an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, for the purposes of facilitating return to work, as directed by sector-specific guidance or Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) or Occupational Health staff.

Where to get tested or assessed

Publicly-funded PCR testing is available to eligible individuals across Ontario at:

  • clinical assessment centres
  • non-clinical assessment centres (testing only)
  • participating community labs
  • participating pharmacies

Some testing locations may also have PCR self-collection kits available, which allow you to collect the sample on your own (under supervision on-site or by yourself at home), then return it to the testing location for processing by a lab.

Find a testing location

Private COVID‑19 tests, such as those that may be needed for outbound international travel, are also available for purchase throughout Ontario.

Certain private clinics may take blood to do an antibody or serology test to tell you if you had the virus in the past. This test has significant limitations and is not used routinely in Ontario, except in limited situations. Ask your doctor or health care provider for more information.

What to bring with you for molecular testing

  • your Ontario health (OHIP) card (you can still get tested if you do not have one)
  • face covering or mask (as masking may be required)
  • assistive or accessibility devices (if you need them)
  • snacks (if you must eat every so often for medical reasons)

Getting your test results

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

  • check your results online 
  • get results on the website provided by the testing location
  • get results by phone

Self assessment

If you are unsure if you are eligible for a PCR or rapid molecular test, take our self-assessment or speak with your health care provider.

For more information, read the latest provincial testing guidance (PDF) and details on the Management of Cases and Contacts of COVID‑19 in Ontario.

Rapid antigen tests

Rapid antigen tests 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 and can produce a result in as little as 15 minutes.

Rapid antigen tests continue to be available through the Provincial Antigen Screening Program for any organization that is open and that has employees working on-site.

Rapid antigen tests also continue to be available to the public for free through more than 3,000 retail locations across the province, as well as through targeted distribution to high priority communities by High Priority Community lead agencies and community-based primary care sites.

Learn more about rapid testing for at-home use and where to access free rapid antigen tests.

Test results

Getting your PCR test results

Depending on the testing location, you may be able to check your results online.

If you are not able to find your test results online, contact the testing location or the health care provider who performed the test to learn how to get your results.

Positive test result

If you get a positive result on a COVID‑19 test (for example, on PCR or rapid antigen test), you should self-isolate immediately, except to get health care. If you test positive on a rapid antigen test, you do not need a PCR or rapid molecular test to confirm your result, unless directed by a health care provider. To find out how long you should stay at home, follow the steps on what to do if you’ve been exposed to COVID‑19.

Antiviral treatments are now available for people with symptoms and a positive test result (PCR or rapid antigen test) who are at higher risk of severe COVID‑19. Find out more about antiviral treatment options or talk to your health care provider.

If you develop severe symptoms requiring medical attention, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, call 911 and inform them that you have tested positive for COVID‑19.

Negative test result

If you test negative on a rapid antigen test, it is less likely that you have COVID‑19. However, if you have COVID‑19 symptoms and use a rapid antigen test it is possible to receive a false negative result (that is, testing negative but still being infected), particularly early in COVID‑19 infection. If you repeat testing at least 24–48 hours after your first negative test and test negative again, you can be more confident in your negative status.

If you are eligible for treatment and have an initial negative rapid antigen test result, it is strongly recommended that you seek laboratory-based or rapid molecular testing as soon as possible given the time frame for receiving therapeutics.

If you were exposed to a COVID‑19-positive person but test negative, find out what to do next.

Clinical assessment centres

Individuals who are experiencing cough, cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms can visit and be assessed at their local clinical assessment centre (CAC).  Clinical assessment centres can assess these symptoms and can test, assess and provide treatment options for COVID 19. You can visit one if you have symptoms and are at a higher risk for COVID 19 and/or if you are unable to access a primary care provider.

Symptoms include:

  • one or more of the following:
    • fever or chills
    • cough
    • shortness of breath
    • decreased or loss of taste or smell
  • two or more of the following:
    • runny nose or nasal congestion
    • headache
    • extreme fatigue
    • sore throat
    • muscle aches or joint pain
    • gastrointestinal symptoms (such as vomiting or diarrhea)

You should bring a list of your medications and a list of any important medical conditions or medication allergies.

If you develop severe symptoms requiring medical attention, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, call 911 or go to the emergency department.

Find a clinical assessment centre

Antiviral treatments

Antiviral treatments for COVID-19 can help prevent serious illness if taken quickly after symptoms start (within the first few days). They are available in Ontario for free to anyone with a prescription. A health care provider, such as a physician, nurse practitioner or participating pharmacist, can determine if treatment is right for you, which includes whether you are at higher risk of developing severe symptoms.

You may be at higher risk if you are any of the following:

  • 60 years of age or older
  • 18 years of age or older and are immunocompromised
  • 18 – 59 years old and at a higher risk of severe COVID-19 including having:
    • one or more underlying medical conditions (such as diabetes, heart or lung disease), or
    • inadequate immunity against COVID-19 from:
      • not receiving a full primary series of the COVID-19 vaccine
      • having received a full primary series but no COVID-19 vaccine or COVID-19 infection within the past six months

The use of antivirals in children under the age of 18 is not routinely recommended. Exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis, such as for children who are severely immunocompromised and/or have multiple risk factors. Speak with a physician or nurse practitioner or contact a clinical assessment centre to learn more.

Use this screening tool to see if you are higher-risk

How to get antiviral treatment

If you have symptoms (even if mild) and are at higher risk of severe COVID‑19, seek testing and care immediately by either:

  • contacting a pharmacist who is prescribing Paxlovid
  • visiting a clinical assessment centre (where you can get tested, assessed and treated or a prescription)
  • contacting a primary care provider (for example, your family doctor or nurse practitioner)

You can use a rapid antigen test if you have one, but it’s important to understand that these tests may be negative in the early stage of infection. If you do not have a rapid antigen test, or if your test result is negative, seek PCR testing and clinical assessment immediately.

If you are high-risk and do not have a primary care provider or are having difficulty accessing care, contact Health811 by phone at 811 or visit the Health811 website to chat with a nurse online for more information on antiviral treatments, assistance or eligibility for virtual care options.

Find a pharmacy to fill your prescription

If you don’t have symptoms but are at higher risk

If you do not have symptoms but are at higher risk of severe COVID‑19, talk to your primary care provider (physician or nurse practitioner) about getting pre-assessed for treatment in case you get sick with COVID‑19.

Available antiviral treatments

Paxlovid

Paxlovid is an antiviral medication that can be taken by mouth at home. Treatment must begin within five days of the start of symptoms.

Paxlovid can be prescribed to eligible patients by any physician, nurse practitioner and participating pharmacist. Individuals should contact their local pharmacy to confirm if the pharmacist is prescribing Paxlovid and how to get a prescription.

Before you get treatment

Paxlovid has the potential for numerous significant and serious drug interactions and may not be appropriate for all people. You must give your health care provider a list of any medications (including any natural health products or vitamins) as well as any important medical conditions or allergies.

Your health care provider will decide if any changes to your medications are necessary before safely taking Paxlovid or another treatment.

Remdesivir

Remdesivir is an antiviral medication that must be taken intravenously (IV) via designated clinics. Remdesivir treatment must begin within seven days of the start of symptoms.

Antiviral treatments are not a replacement for vaccination or taking other recommended precautions. Learn where to get vaccinated and book an appointment today.

Evusheld

Evusheld is a monoclonal antibody therapy against COVID-19. In Ontario, Evusheld has been used for the prevention of COVID-19 in select immunocompromised patients since April 2022.

On October 26, 2022, Health Canada issued a notice that Evusheld may lack effectiveness at treating some variants of COVID-19. 

Evidence has indicated Evusheld is likely ineffective against multiple variants currently circulating in the province. As a result, Evusheld is no longer routinely recommended in Ontario for either the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.  

If you have received Evusheld in the past, you cannot rely on it for protection against COVID-19. If you begin to develop symptoms of COVID-19, take a COVID-19 test and seek medical attention immediately.

To learn more:

Information for health care providers

Additional resources and clinical guidance for COVID-19 treatments are available from Ontario Health.