COVID-19 test and testing location information

What you need to know before, during, and after a test at an assessment centre, pharmacy, or community lab.

Last updated: April 12, 2021

Find a testing location

From April 12 at 12:01 a.m. to April 18 at 11:59 p.m., school and childcare aged children and youth who are not showing symptoms of covid 19 are eligible for testing at any participating pharmacy and all assessment centres.

Where and when to get tested

Anyone who needs a test under the provincial testing guidelines can get one at no cost. Depending on your situation, you may be able to get a covid 19 test at:

  • covid 19 assessment centres (including mobile and temporary sites)
  • participating community labs
  • participating pharmacies

Some locations may have certain restrictions (for example, some are unable to test young children).

At assessment centres and participating community labs (including mobile and temporary sites in priority areas)

You can get a covid 19 test at an assessment centre or participating community lab if any of the following apply to you:

  • Symptoms and exposure
    • currently experiencing covid 19 symptoms
    • have been exposed to a covid 19-positive person (if you know when you were exposed, get tested 5 days after your last exposure and stay in self-isolation. If you do not know when you were exposed, get tested right away)
    • received a Covid Alert app exposure notification
    • a resident or worker in a setting that has a covid 19 outbreak, as identified by your local public health unit
  • Long-term care and other congregate settings
    • a worker (including support workers), visitor (including caregivers), or government inspector of a long-term care home
    • a worker (including support workers), visitor (including caregivers), or government inspector of a retirement home
    • a resident or worker in a homeless shelter or other congregate setting (for example, group homes, community supported living, disability-specific communities or congregate settings, short-term rehab, hospices and other shelters)
  • Farming
    • a farm worker
  • Indigenous
    • a person who identifies as Indigenous
    • a person travelling into remote/isolated First Nation and Indigenous communities for work purposes
  • Schools and child care
    • staff working in schools (including visiting, supply and specialty teachers, bus drivers)
    • staff in school boards
    • staff in child care settings 
    • school and childcare aged children and youth who are not showing symptoms of covid 19, only at participating pharmacies and all assessment centres, from April 12 at 12:01 a.m. to April 18 at 11:59 p.m.
  • Surgery and other reasons
    • need a test before a scheduled (non-urgent or emergent) surgery in a region with high community transmission (ask your health care provider)
    • an international student who has passed their 14-day quarantine period
    • you received a point-of-care test (such as a rapid test) and require a follow-up lab-based test to confirm results
    • a person, and one accompanying caregiver, with written prior approval for out-of-country medical services from the General Manager, OHIP
    • any other targeted testing group as outlined in guidance from the Chief Medical Officer of Health

Find a testing location

Private covid 19 tests, such as for outbound international travel, are available throughout Ontario. You may be charged for a private test.

Community labs

A community lab is a place where you would typically get blood work done outside of a hospital setting.

Only a small number of community labs in certain regions are participating in covid 19 testing. More community labs will come online in the coming weeks and be added to our testing locations finder.

At a participating pharmacy

You can get a covid 19 test at a participating pharmacy if you do not have symptoms, have not been in close physical contact with someone who currently has covid 19, are not part of a specific outbreak investigation, and if any of the following apply to you:

  • Long-term care and other congregate settings
    • a resident, worker (including support workers), visitor (including caregivers), or government inspector of a long-term care home
    • a resident, worker (including support workers), visitor (including caregivers), or government inspector of a retirement home
    • a resident or worker in a homeless shelter or other congregate setting (for example, group homes, community supported living, disability-specific communities or congregate settings, short-term rehab, hospices and other shelters)
  • Schools and child care
    • staff working in schools (including visiting, supply and specialty teachers, bus drivers)
    • staff in school boards
    • staff in child care settings 
    • school and childcare aged children and youth who are not showing symptoms of covid 19, only at participating pharmacies and all assessment centres, from April 12 at 12:01 a.m. to April 18 at 11:59 p.m.
  • Indigenous
    • a person who identifies as Indigenous
    • a person travelling into remote/isolated First Nation and Indigenous communities for work purposes
  • Other reasons
    • a person who needs out-of-country medical services, and one accompanying caregiver (with written prior approval from the OHIP General Manager as requested by a referring physician)
    • a farm worker
    • an international student that has passed their 14-day quarantine period

Find a testing location

Groups targeted for testing by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Long-term Care, or Public Health Ontario may change from time to time. You should confirm your eligibility for a covid 19 test with your health care provider before seeking testing.

Still not sure?

Take our self-assessment to help you decide what to do or speak with your health care provider if you think the above criteria does not apply to you.

Read the latest provincial testing guidance.

Cleaning and safety standards

We understand that going to a testing location may be stressful. Please know that testing locations have very high cleaning and safety standards to make sure the virus does not spread.

The testing location staff:

  • wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • disinfect using the highest-quality cleaning products
  • make sure everyone is physically distancing

About the test

Most testing locations use a long, flexible swab to collect a sample through your nose.

You may feel some discomfort for a little while after.

The swab is:

  • put in one nostril
  • rotated around for 5 to 10 seconds
  • sometimes put into the other nostril

Most swabs go deep to rub against the inner side of the nose. It may feel like when you get water up your nose – temporarily uncomfortable, but not painful.

Some testing locations use throat swabs or collect saliva.

In the lab

The sample is sent to a lab for viral testing, also known as real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing. This test detects viral genetic material and is the most accurate.

Learn about rapid antigen screening.

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.

Learn more about how samples are tested for covid 19.

What to bring with you

  • your Ontario health (OHIP) card (you can still get tested if you do not have one)
  • a face covering or mask (wear one at all times)
  • assistive or accessibility devices (if you need them)
  • snacks (if you must eat every so often for medical reasons)

At the testing location

Follow public health measures, including:

  • wearing a face covering or mask (only take it down below your nose when you are told to)
  • keeping at least 2 metres away from people you do not live with
  • washing or sanitizing your hands often

How long the testing process takes

Between the screening and the swab, it should take about 10 to 30 minutes. Time at each location varies.

Bringing people with you

If possible, please avoid bringing people with you (if they are not getting tested as well).

If you need someone with you during the test, ask the testing location ahead of time to confirm if this is possible.

Getting your test result

On average, most results are ready 48 hours after 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.

While you wait for your test result

If you have covid 19 symptoms and/or were exposed to a known covid 19 case, including getting a Covid Alert notification

You should self-isolate (stay at home) while you wait for your result.

If you do not have symptoms and were not exposed

You can continue as normal while you wait for your result and follow covid 19 public health measures, including wearing a face covering, frequent handwashing, and maintaining physical distance from those outside your household. Pay attention to your health to note if anything changes.

Testing positive or negative

Positive

A positive result means it is likely that you have the virus.

You must self-isolate (stay at home) until public health clears you.

Your local public health unit will contact you and ask you contact tracing questions. They will also let you know when you can stop self-isolating.

Contact your doctor or health care provider for more information and guidance.

Negative

A negative result means we were not able to detect the virus at the time of your test.

You should continue to follow covid 19 public health measures, including wearing a face covering, frequent handwashing, and maintaining physical distance from those outside your household. Pay attention to your health to note if anything changes.

If you were exposed to a covid 19-positive person and test negative

You must continue to self-isolate for 14 days after your last exposure with that person, even if you test negative.

Rapid tests (also known as “point-of-care” tests)

We are rolling out rapid tests that quickly check for covid 19.

There are two kinds of rapid tests:

Rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests

How they work

Rapid PCR tests, also called molecular point-of-care tests, detect the virus’ genetic material to confirm if you have covid 19. A health care professional will collect a fluid sample by swabbing either your:

  • nose
  • throat

On average, results from your rapid PCR test will be ready within 15 minutes.

Where we’re using them

We are using rapid PCR tests primarily in rural and remote settings. This is because:

  • turnaround times for traditional lab-based PCR test results may be slower in these areas
  • we are supporting community-led efforts to prevent the spread of covid 19 in rural and remote regions, including Indigenous communities

Public health units across the province will also use them to help detect positive cases more quickly. For example, rapid testing may be used in early outbreak investigations and testing campaigns for vulnerable populations, like the homeless or people living in congregate settings.

Rapid antigen tests

How they work

Rapid antigen tests detect certain proteins in the virus to confirm if it is present. A sample is collected using a swab in the nose and/or throat or nasopharynx (behind your nose and above the back of your throat).

On average, results from your rapid antigen test will be ready between 15 and 20 minutes.

Where we’re using them

We conducted a rapid antigen testing pilot in certain areas of the province for:

  • essential workers
  • staff and visitors in long-term care homes
  • select hospitals and workplaces

We are now making rapid antigen tests more widely available for people with no symptoms (asymptomatic) in:

  • long-term care homes
  • retirement homes
  • schools and childcare centres in communities identified by local public health units and school boards
  • congregate living settings (residential mental health, group homes, supportive housing, shelters and adult correctional facilities)
  • workplaces without outbreaks in manufacturing, warehousing, supply chain, food supply, construction, and other priority sectors
  • certain community agencies working in locations identified under Ontario’s High Priority Communities Strategy

If you test positive on a rapid antigen test

Rapid tests are not as accurate as lab-based PCR tests. Those who test positive on a rapid antigen test must get a follow-up test to confirm the result.

To get your follow-up confirmatory test, make an appointment at either:

  • an assessment centre
  • a participating community lab

Do not go to a pharmacy for a follow-up confirmatory test.

The person conducting your rapid test will explain what the results mean and what you should do.

Read the latest provincial testing guidance.

Mandatory testing at airport and land borders with the United States

Air travel

All travellers arriving to Canada by air, with some exceptions, will be required to take two covid 19 molecular tests:

  • when they arrive in Canada before exiting the airport
  • toward the end of their 14-day quarantine period

With limited exceptions, air travellers will also be required to stay in a government-authorized hotel upon arrival.

Learn more about entering Ontario by air from another country during covid 19.

Land travel

As of February 15, the federal government requires all travellers arriving in Canada by land, with some exceptions, to provide proof of either a:

  • negative covid 19 molecular test taken in the USA within 72 hours before arriving
  • positive test taken 14 to 90 days before arrival if you’ve recovered from and continue to test positive for covid 19

Once in Canada, travelers will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

As of February 22, travellers entering at land borders will be required to take a covid 19 molecular test upon arrival as well as toward the end of their 14-day quarantine.

Learn more about entering Ontario by land from another country during covid 19.