Overview

With symptomatic PCR testing reserved for those who need it most, the Government of Alberta is making free COVID-19 rapid antigen testing kits for at-home use available to all Albertans.

Where to get test kits

Rapid test kits (5-packs) are being supplied to and are available at participating pharmacies across the province. To find a pharmacy offering rapid test kits near you, use the Blue Cross lookup tool.

Some AHS clinics may also have kits available while supplies last.

Showing your public health number is no longer required.

Participating pharmacies across Alberta

Suitability

  • Rapid tests can be used by:
    • people aged 14 and older
    • children aged 2 to 13 if performed by an adult
  • Children under 2 cannot use a rapid test at home, book a PCR test instead.

How to test

  • Because it takes time for your body to develop enough protein to be detectable by a rapid test after being exposed to COVID-19, each kit contains 5 rapid tests. Repeated screening can help detect infection as soon as possible.
  • If you don't have symptoms, perform rapid tests twice per week, 72 hours apart, for 2 weeks (for example: Sunday and Wednesday or Monday and Thursday). The fifth test in the pack is a spare in case you get an invalid test result.
  • Follow the instructions for Option B: Nasal Swab provided on the BTNX Procedure Card included in the kit (do not follow instructions for Option A: Nasopharyngeal Swab).
  • Note: Emerging evidence on the Omicron variant indicates that taking a sample by swabbing both the mouth and nose is more effective at detecting COVID-19 when using a rapid antigen test.

Test results and next steps

Find out what is recommended to do if you get a positive, negative, or invalid rapid antigen test result.

Only people who test positive and meet the high-risk conditions criteria list below should book a follow up PCR test.

  • Positive rapid test

    Positive result with symptoms

    • Recommended to isolate:
      • Fully vaccinated: 5 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer, plus 5 days of wearing a mask at all times when around others outside of home.
      • Not fully vaccinated: 10 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.
    • Do not continue rapid testing. Book a PCR test only if you meet the high-risk conditions outlined below.
    • Notify all close contacts from the previous 48 hours that they should monitor for symptoms and be cautious about going to any high risk settings like continuing care facilities or crowded indoor spaces.

    Positive result no symptoms

    • Recommended to isolate.
    • Take second rapid test in 24 hours:
      • If negative, isolation can end unless you develop symptoms.
      • If positive, continue isolating as outlined above.
    • If second test is positive, inform all close contacts as indicated above.
  • Negative rapid test

    NOTE: A negative test result does not rule out infection. Continue monitoring your symptoms and following public health guidelines.

    Negative rapid test with symptoms

    • Recommended to isolate for 24 hours.
    • Take second rapid test in 24 hours:
      • If negative, continue isolating until symptoms resolve before cautiously resuming normal activities.
      • If positive, continue isolation:
        • Fully vaccinated: 5 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer, plus 5 days of wearing a mask at all times when around others outside of home
        • Not fully vaccinated: 10 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer

    Negative rapid test no symptoms

    • Isolation is not required but continue monitoring symptoms and following public health guidelines.
  • Invalid rapid test result

    If your test result does not match either the negative or the positive examples on the procedure card, re-test until you receive a positive or negative result.

  • PCR testing for high-risk people

    Free PCR testing through AHS Assessment Centres is only available to people at risk of severe illness or work in high risk settings.

    • Children under 2 with symptoms
    • People with symptoms who may be eligible for Paxlovid or Remdesivir (anti-viral drugs)
    • People with symptoms who are household contacts of a person who works in continuing care or acute care
    • People with symptoms who are pregnant
    • People with symptoms who live or work in isolated and remote First Nation, Inuit, and Métis communities
    • Returning international travellers who become symptomatic within 14 days after their return to Canada
    • Health care workers or workers in specific high risk settings

    Take the assessment to book a PCR test

  • Documenting and sharing your rapid test result

    We encourage you to document your positive rapid test result in the event you may need to share the results with someone.

    To make this easier, complete the following form and share it along with a picture of the rapid test result with whomever you need to.

Test types

Learn the difference between a rapid antigen test and a PCR test.

Rapid antigen test

An antigen test looks for a protein from the virus that causes COVID-19. This is a simple test that does not require specialized equipment and can produce a result in as little as 15 minutes.

Antigen tests are less sensitive than PCR tests. This means they can be negative even when someone is infected. For this reason, even if someone who has symptoms gets a negative result on a rapid antigen test, they should still stay home and away from others until symptoms resolve and must continue following all public health guidelines.

PCR test

A PCR test looks for the genetic material of the virus that causes COVID-19. PCR tests can only be done in a lab by an expert and it can take 1 to 3 days to get a test result. This is a highly sensitive test and can identify the virus earlier in an infection than an antigen test.

Was this page helpful?

All fields are required unless otherwise indicated.

You will not receive a reply. Do not enter any personal information such as telephone numbers, addresses, or emails.

Your submissions are monitored by our web team and are used to help improve the experience on Alberta.ca. If you require a response, please go to our Contact page.