COVID‑19 testing and treatment
Find information on the different types of tests available, how to get tested, and what treatments are available.
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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 5 days to 7 days of symptom onset (depending on the treatment).
There are two publicly-funded types of COVID‑19 test available in Ontario:
- rapid antigen tests (available for free to people at high risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19, including in high priority communities and people eligible for COVID-19 treatments)
- molecular tests (which includes polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and rapid molecular testing)
Rapid antigen tests
- Rapid antigen tests detect certain proteins in the virus to identify the presence of COVID‑19. A sample, which can be self-collected, is taken using a swab in the nose 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 select organizations that have employees working on-site.
- Rapid antigen tests are also available for free through local public health units, select health care settings (such as pharmacies), publicly funded schools and licensed child care programs, as well as targeted distribution to high priority communities.
- Some individuals at high risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 may be eligible for COVID-19 treatments.
Both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and rapid molecular tests can be used to determine if you have COVID‑19. With PCR testing, a health care professional, or another trained individual, swabs your nose or throat, they send the sample to a lab for testing, and you typically get the results in 1-2 days.
PCR self-collection test kits are also available from participating pharmacies. You can collect the specimen yourself and drop it off at a testing location for processing.
Rapid molecular tests are as reliable as PCR tests but do not require a lab. 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 (such as 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 setting
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Publicly-funded PCR testing is available to eligible individuals across Ontario at:
- clinical assessment centres (provides testing and clinical assessments for treatment)
- non-clinical assessment centres (testing only)
- participating community labs
- participating pharmacies
Some testing locations may have PCR self-collection kits, 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.
If you develop severe symptoms requiring medical attention, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, call 911 or go to the emergency department.
What to bring with you for molecular testing
- Your Ontario health (OHIP) card (you can still get tested if you do not have one).
- A 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 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, 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 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 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.
Antiviral treatments for COVID-19 can 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 physician, nurse practitioner or participating pharmacist can prescribe treatment if it is right for you and if you are at higher risk of serious illness.
You may be at higher risk and eligible if you are any of the following:
- 60 years of age or older
- 18 years of age or older and are immunocompromised
- 18 to 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)
- 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 6 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 to learn more.
If you are a transplant recipient and have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact your transplant centre to ensure you receive the appropriate therapeutics.
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 primary care provider (for example, a family doctor, nurse practitioner or your treating specialist)
- contacting your local pharmacy to find out if there is a pharmacist available that can prescribe Paxlovid
- visiting a clinical assessment centre (available in select areas only)
If you are having difficulty accessing care, contact Health811 by phone at 811 or visit the Health811 website to chat online with a nurse who will assess your eligibility to obtain an antiviral prescription from a virtual clinic.
If you develop severe symptoms requiring medical attention, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, call 911 or go to the emergency department.
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. Seek PCR testing and care immediately if the test is negative or if you don’t have a rapid antigen test.
The CanTreatCOVID Study is open to adults in Ontario aged 18 – 49 years with one or more chronic condition(s), or adults aged 50 years and over who have tested positive for COVID-19 with symptoms starting within the last five days. Participants in the study may be eligible to receive COVID-19 medications (including Paxlovid).
Visit the CanTreatCOVID website or call
Make a plan in case you get sick
If you do not have symptoms but are at higher risk of severe COVID‑19, make a plan in case you get sick. Talk to your primary care provider or pharmacist in advance to determine your treatment options. Keep rapid antigen tests on hand and check where your closest PCR testing location is.
Available antiviral treatments
Antiviral treatments work better the sooner you take them after you get symptoms.
Paxlovid is an antiviral medication taken by mouth at home. Treatment must begin within five days of the start of symptoms.
Paxlovid can be prescribed by any physician, nurse practitioner and participating pharmacist, and prescriptions can be filled at most pharmacies.
Paxlovid has the potential for numerous significant and serious drug interactions when taken with some medications 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) and tell them about any important medical conditions or allergies you have. For more information, visit the Health Canada Consumer Information Summary.
Your health care provider will decide if any changes to your medications are necessary before safely taking Paxlovid or another treatment.
Remdesivir is an antiviral medication that is administered intravenously (IV) via Home and Community Care Support Services (HCCSS). Remdesivir treatment must begin within 7 days of the start of symptoms and requires a referral from a physician (doctor) or nurse practitioner. Remdesivir is only prescribed to people who cannot take Paxlovid because they are on certain medications, have certain medical conditions, or have had symptoms longer than 5 days
Your doctor or nurse practitioner must complete the appropriate referral form(s) and submit to the local Home and Community Care Support Services branch. A care coordinator from the Home and Community Care Support Services branch will follow up with you directly. In most cases, patients will receive infusions at a community nursing clinic; at-home service may be provided for patients who are not eligible for nursing clinics.
Antiviral treatments are not a replacement for vaccination or taking other recommended precautions. Learn where to get vaccinated and book an appointment today.
Evusheld is a monoclonal antibody therapy has been used for the prevention of COVID-19 in select immunocompromised patients since April 2022.
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:
- speak to your health care practitioner
- read the Evusheld patient handout
Information for health care providers
Additional resources and clinical guidance for COVID-19 treatments are available from Ontario Health.
- footnote Back to paragraph While people on admission/transfer are eligible for molecular testing, the decision of whether to test should be based on clinical, epidemiological, and/or organizational factors.