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: January 6, 2021

Find a testing location

Where and when to get tested

Depending on your situation, you may be able to get a free 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 visitor or worker in a long-term care home
    • a worker in 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
  • 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 that has passed their 14-day quarantine period
    • you received a preliminary positive result through the rapid antigen screening pilot
    • in a targeted testing group as outlined in guidance from the Chief Medical Officer of Health

Find a testing location

After December 11, you will no longer be able to get a free test for outbound international travel. Private covid 19 tests are available throughout Ontario.

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 and if any of the following apply to you:

  • Long-term care and other congregate settings
    • a visitor or worker in a long-term care home
    • a worker in 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)
  • Other reasons
    • a farm worker
    • a person who identifies as Indigenous
    • an international student that has passed their 14-day quarantine period

Find a testing location

After December 11, you will no longer be able to get a free test for outbound international travel. Private covid 19 tests are available throughout Ontario.

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 or give you anxiety. Please know that they 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 testing pilots

We are rolling out rapid tests that will quickly check for covid 19 in certain areas of the province for essential workers, staff and visitors in long-term care homes, and in select hospitals and workplaces.

Rapid tests are relatively new to Ontario and being rolled out in limited settings. Devices to rapidly test or screen will soon be available in:

Rapid tests are not as accurate as lab-based RT-PCR tests, so those who test positive must get a follow-up test to confirm the result.

Learn more about the rollout of rapid testing.

If you’re in the pilot and test positive on a rapid test

You will either be offered a second swab on the spot, which will be sent to a lab to confirm covid 19, or you will be asked to book a follow-up appointment to confirm your preliminary positive 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 health care provider conducting your rapid test will explain what the results mean and what you should do.

Read the latest provincial testing guidance.

Voluntary border testing pilot at Toronto Pearson airport

The Government of Ontario, in partnership with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, has launched a free and voluntary covid 19 testing pilot program at Toronto Pearson International Airport for eligible travellers to help quickly identify and stop the spread of covid 19 in the province.

This program is in addition to the new Government of Canada pre-departure requirement for travellers bound to Canada to demonstrate proof of a negative covid 19 results from a test taken within three days prior to departure.

Learn more about the voluntary border testing pilot program.