Rapid Antigen Testing

Rapid antigen testing is also known as rapid testing or point of care (POC) testing. It is available for asymptomatic individuals 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 purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis of acute 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 sensitivity and 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 obtain a negative result through rapid testing.
  • The sensitivity of a rapid test is further decreased when not operated correctly or when the swab is not taken properly. Ensure anyone using these devices has had the proper training prior to their use.

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 will will be distributing Rapid Antigen Screening Kits to Ottawa businesses with less than 150 employees.  To learn more about this program, please visit:  https://www.ottawabot.ca/rapid-antigen-screening-kits/

For Individuals

You received a COVID-19 Rapid test through your workplace or other organization, read Rapid Antigen Testing for COVID-19 Factsheet to find out your next steps.

Frequently asked questions

What is the rapid antigen testing?
  • Rapid antigen testing is available for asymptomatic individuals who are part of a workplace or organization that is participating in testing.
  • Rapid testing should only be used as a screening tool for asymptomatic individuals and should not be used for diagnosis of acute COVID-19 infection.
  • A PCR test conducted at one of Ottawa’s recognized testing sites is still OPH’s preferred method to receive COVID-19 testing.

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 asymptomatic people 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 and does not require shipping a specimen to a lab for processing.

Who should not receive a rapid antigen test?

Rapid antigen tests should not be used for individuals:

  • with symptoms
  • who have had close contact with someone who is positive for COVID-19
  • who have previously been infected with and recovered from COVID-19
  • to diagnose COVID-19 infection

These individuals should be directed to their healthcare provider, to an assessment centre, or a participating licensed community lab to obtain a diagnostic test instead of a rapid screening test.

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 is currently symptomatic or a contact of a confirmed case should be directed 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 asymptomatic employees.

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.

  • Partner ministries will reach out to prioritized sectors to confirm interest and participation. Employers can apply to this program by responding directly to their ministry’s invitation.
  • 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 provide follow up to clients on 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 presumptive positive case.
  • All test results performed by a licensed laboratory must be uploaded into the Ontario Laboratory Information System (OLIS)
  • 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  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.
  • A positive rapid antigen test after vaccination is possible and should be treated as a probable case, with the individual self-isolating and seeking a confirmatory PCR test as soon as possible. 
  • 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 addition, some individuals may have been exposed to COVID-19 prior to vaccination (incubating at the time of vaccination), and subsequently will test positive.  

Other Resources for Organizations Participating in Rapid Antigen Testing


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