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 70 years and older
  • people aged 60 years and older who have less than three doses of COVID‑19 vaccine
  • people who are immunocompromised
  • adults aged 18 years and older who have had less than three doses of COVID‑19 vaccine and have risk conditions
  • other people at higher risk of severe disease who may be eligible for COVID‑19 treatment if they tested positive
  • pregnant people
  • patient-facing healthcare workers
  • staff, volunteers, residents/inpatients, essential care providers, and visitors in highest risk settings, including:
    • hospitals, including complex continuing care facilities and paramedic services
    • congregate living settings with medically and socially vulnerable individuals, including, but not limited to, long-term care homes, retirement homes
    • First Nation elder care lodges
    • group homes
    • shelters
    • hospices
    • correctional institutions
    • hospital schools
  • household members of staff in highest risk settings and patient-facing health care workers
  • home and community care workers
  • staff and students in Provincial and Demonstration Schools
  • international agriculture workers in congregate living settings
  • patients seeking emergency medical care, at the discretion of the treating clinician
  • other outpatients for whom a diagnostic test is required for clinical management, at the discretion of the treating clinician
  • people who are underhoused or experiencing homelessness
  • first responders, including fire, 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
  • individuals 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

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 get your result:

  • online on the Test Results Website if you have a photo (green) health card
  • on a website provided by the testing location
  • 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 are also being provided to students and staff in:

  • public elementary schools
  • public secondary schools
  • First Nations schools
  • child care settings

Rapid antigen tests also continue to be available to the public for free through more than 3,200 participating grocery and pharmacy 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

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

Clinical assessment centres 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 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.

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

To be considered for antiviral treatment, you must have symptoms and test positive for COVID‑19 (by molecular or rapid antigen test). You also need to be assessed by a health care provider to determine if treatment is right for you, which includes whether or not you are at higher risk of developing severe symptoms.

You may be at higher risk if you are:

  • immunocompromised (have an immune system that is weakened by a health condition or medications)
  • 70 and older
  • 60 and older with less than three vaccine doses
  • 18 and older with less than three vaccine doses and at least one of the following risk conditions:
    • obesity
    • diabetes
    • heart disease
    • hypertension
    • congestive heart failure
    • chronic respiratory disease (including cystic fibrosis)
    • cerebral palsy
    • intellectual or developmental disability
    • sickle cell disease
    • moderate or severe kidney disease
    • moderate or severe liver disease
    • pregnancy

A health care provider may determine treatment is right for you even if you do not belong to one of the groups above based on your individual circumstances.

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 health care provider or contact a clinical assessment centre to learn more.

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

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. For more information consult the  Paxlovid patient handout (available in multiple languages).

Paxlovid can be prescribed by any physician or nurse practitioner and is available through clinical assessment centres, hospitals and participating pharmacies across the province.

Find a pharmacy to fill your prescription

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.

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:

  • 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)

Use a rapid antigen test if you have one. However, as rapid antigen tests may be negative in the early stage of infection, seek PCR testing and assessment immediately if the test is negative or if you don’t have a rapid antigen test.

If you are not able to visit a clinical assessment centre, you can get a PCR test at any provincial testing location, but will also need an assessment from a health care provider to get treatment. Some testing centres may be able connect you to a health care provider.

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

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 about getting pre-assessed for treatment in case you get sick with COVID‑19.

Before you get treatment

You must provide a list of any medications (including any natural health products or vitamins) you are taking and advise health care providers about any important medical conditions.

A health care provider, often with a pharmacist, will decide if any changes to your medications are necessary before safely taking Paxlovid or another treatment.

Preventive treatments (pre-exposure prophylaxis)

Evusheld

On October 26, 2022, Health Canada issued a notice that Evusheld may lack effectiveness at treating some variants of COVID-19. If you have received Evusheld and begin to develop symptoms of COVID-19, complete a COVID-19 test and seek medical attention immediately.

Evusheld is a single dose of antibodies (two injections at the same time) that provides protection for immunocompromised individuals from COVID‑19 for at least six months.

Evusheld requires a prescription and is only authorized for patients who:

  • are not positive for COVID‑19 at the time of treatment
  • are 12 and older
  • have certain health conditions that make them higher risk and need additional protection, including:
    • solid organ transplant recipients
    • stem cell transplant recipients
    • CAR-T therapy recipients
    • other hematologic cancer patients undergoing treatment
    • people receiving anti-B-cell therapy (such as rituximab)
    • people with significant primary immunodeficiency

If you have one of these health conditions, contact your health care provider or call 811 to see if Evusheld is right for you. For more information consult the Evusheld patient handout.

Information for health care providers

Clinical guidance on use and highest priority populations for Paxlovid and other antiviral treatments is available from the Science Advisory Table. The Science Advisory Table’s recommendations identify populations who would get the most benefit and can be used by health care providers, along with their clinical judgement, to make decisions on when to prescribe antivirals. All patients who are at higher risk of severe outcomes based on clinical assessment, have tested positive and do not have conditions that prevent them from taking the medication are eligible for publicly-funded antivirals based on clinician judgement.

Additional resources for antiviral treatments and preventive treatments are available from Ontario Health.