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

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

    Tested positive with symptoms

    • If you have COVID-19 symptoms and test positive you should:
      • isolate at home for 5 days from the start of symptoms
      • wear a mask for the next 5 days while in indoor spaces with other people

    Tested positive without symptoms

    • If you test positive but don't have symptoms, you should isolate and take a second test 24 hours later.
      • If the second test is negative - isolation can end unless you develop symptoms.
      • If the second test is positive:
        • isolate for at least 5 days or until symptoms have improved, if present, and you've been free of fever for 24 hours without the use of medication, whichever is longer
        • wear a mask for the next 5 days while in indoor spaces with other people
  • Negative rapid test

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

    Tested negative with symptoms

    • If you have symptoms and test negative, you should:
      • stay home and repeat the test after 24 hours
      • if both tests are negative, you should stay home until symptoms have improved and you have been free of fever (without use of medication) for 24 hours as you may have another virus that could be transmitted to others

    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

    Eligible through self-referral

    Eligible with referral from a health care provider

    • Starting July 18, the following people require a referral from a health care provider to get a PCR test if it is needed to inform their care:

    Your health care provider will determine the best testing option, including rapid testing, in-clinic PCR testing, or a referral to an AHS site.

    If you are eligible for outpatient treatment and do not have a health care provider, or are unable to book an appointment, call AHS Health Link at 1-844-343-0971.

    Unsure? Take the AHS online assessment

  • 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.

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