Rapid Antigen Testing for Workplaces

December 29, 2021 - This page is currently under review and will be updated shortly. 
While access to PCR testing is limited because of the increase in people seeking testing, anyone who tests positive on a rapid antigen test should be considered positive for COVID-19. If you test positive on a rapid antigen test, you and your household members must self-isolate for 10 days. 

Learn more about additional testing options including PCR and rapid antigen testing available in the community.

Rapid antigen testing is also known as rapid testing or point of care (POC) testing. It is available for individuals without symptoms who are part of a workplace or organization that is participating in the Provincial Antigen Screening Program or private testing.

  • Rapid testing should be used for screening only and should not be used to diagnose COVID-19 infection.
  • Rapid testing does not prevent someone from getting COVID-19. It also does not replace public health measures such as symptom screening, physical distancing, appropriate use of PPE (masking, eye protection) and hand hygiene. Rapid testing can be thought of as an additional screening tool. Any positive results from rapid testing must be confirmed with laboratory-based testing.
  • The accuracy of a rapid antigen test is not 100%. There is a strong possibility of false negative results. This means that in some cases a client who does have COVID-19 may get a negative result through rapid testing.
  • Proper training prior to use is important. This will ensure more accurate results.

New Rapid Screening Initiative:

The Ottawa Board of Trade (OBoT), in partnership with Invest Ottawa and Bayview Yards, have launched the COVID-19 Rapid Screening Initiative.  Through this initiative, OBoT is distributing Rapid Antigen Screening Kits to Ottawa businesses with less than 150 employees. Learn more about this program.

For Individuals

If you received a COVID-19 rapid test through your workplace or other organization, read the Rapid Antigen Testing for COVID-19 Factsheet (pdf - 586KB) to find out your next steps.

Frequently asked questions

What is the rapid antigen testing?
  • Rapid antigen testing is available for individuals without symptoms who are part of a workplace or organization that is participating in testing.
  • Rapid testing should only be used as a screening tool for individuals without symptoms and should not be used to diagnose COVID-19 infection.
  • A PCR test (laboratory based test) conducted at one of Ottawa’s recognized testing sites is still OPH’s preferred method to be tested for COVID-19.

How does the test work?

  • Rapid antigen tests use a nasal swab. The antigen test looks for proteins from the COVID-19 virus. Results are available in about 15 to 20 minutes; at the same site the sample is taken.
  • This test may be useful for repeated screening of people who don’t have symptoms in high-risk settings, such as staff, volunteers, residents or visitors in long-term care homes.
  • A rapid antigen test can be performed anywhere (on-site, at the place of employment) by a health professional or other trained person (including self-swabbing) and does not require shipping a specimen to a lab for processing.
Can rapid testing diagnose someone with COVID-19 infection?
  • A rapid antigen test cannot be used to diagnose COVID-19 infection.
  • Any positive result from rapid testing must be confirmed with laboratory-based testing (PCR test within 24 hours of screening positive).
  • An individual who currently has symptoms or is a contact of a confirmed case should go to their healthcare provider, an assessment centre, or participating licensed community lab to get a diagnostic test instead of a rapid test.

What is the Provincial Antigen Screening Program?

  • The Provincial Antigen Screening Program aims to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to support essential and vulnerable workplaces to safely stay open.
  • The program distributes rapid antigen tests to employers in priority settings to enhance existing routine screening measures for employees without symptoms.

How do workplaces participate in the Provincial Antigen Screening Program?

  • To participate in the Provincial Antigen Screening program, contact the Government of Ontario to find out if your organization is eligible to access free test kits.
  • The Provincial Antigen Screening Program is using the Abbott PanbioTM test. Visit the Abbott Panbio website to learn more on how this test works.
  • A list of other authorized COVID-19 rapid testing devices is available through the Government of Canada website.
  • The Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association (EORLA) offers training and advice around quality assurance for sites implementing rapid testing using Abbott PanBioTM. For more information, please contact rapidcovtestquestions@eorla.ca.

What are the responsibilities for organizations conducting rapid antigen testing?

  • Workplaces or organizations that participate in rapid antigen testing assume all operational, medical, and/or legal responsibilities relating to this initiative.
  • Workplaces must have a procedure in place to follow-up with clients on their test results.
  • Workplaces must have plans in place to respond, should any individuals be exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19. For example, how the organization will follow public health guidance for handling a positive result from a rapid antigen test.
  • Please review guidance from the Ministry of Health for more information about participating in rapid antigen testing.
  • Workplaces are responsible for providing follow-up guidance to the person who tested positive. Please refer to Rapid Antigen Testing for COVID-19 Fact Sheet (pdf - 586KB) for further instructions.

Can a person who is vaccinated have a Rapid Antigen Test?

  • Rapid testing can be performed on vaccinated, partially vaccinated and unvaccinated persons.
  • Rapid testing is generally not recommended for individuals who are fully vaccinated (i.e., ≥14 days after receiving their second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or their first dose of a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine series) as the likelihood of COVID-19 is low for this group.
  • Since the vaccine is not 100% effective, some fully vaccinated individuals may still be susceptible to infection following post-vaccination exposure to COVID-19.
  • In the event a vaccinated individual receives a positive rapid antigen test, the individual needs to self-isolate and have a PCR test as soon as possible.

How do I dispose of used rapid antigen test kits?

There are different disposal requirements for businesses and private residences outlined in the provincial COVID-19 Guidance: Considerations for Antigen Point-of-Care Testing

At-home rapid antigen screening 

For residents in the City of Ottawa, rapid COVID test kits from at-home testing must be placed in a plastic bag and then placed in your regular household garbage. This will help ensure the safety of waste collection operators.    

On-site workplace rapid antigen screening 

Waste from on-site workplace rapid antigen screening programs is considered hazardous waste under the Environmental Protection Act. 

Workplaces/businesses participating in the Provincial Antigen Screening Program must follow provincial guidance provided by the Safe handling and management of rapid antigen COVID-19 testing waste.

Workplaces/businesses participating in the Ottawa Board of Trade’s (OBOT) Rapid Antigen Testing Program can bring their biomedical waste back to OBOT’s distribution sites for disposal. These sites are located at:

  • West End: 1000 Innovation Drive, Kanata 
  • East End: 1730 St. Laurent Blvd., Ottawa 

Following proper biosafety precautions is one of many considerations a workplace needs to anticipate before starting this program at their worksite. 

How frequently should rapid testing be performed?

  • There isn’t enough evidence around the best frequency of rapid testing, however rapid antigen tests may be performed at least one time per week, and up to 2-3 times per week for individuals who are not fully vaccinated.

Other Resources for Organizations Participating in Rapid Antigen Testing

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