Rapid test supply update

The expected supply of at-home rapid test kits from the federal government and manufacturers has been delayed. We are working hard to get more and will inform Albertans as soon as additional kits are available to pick up in pharmacies.

Overview

Albertans can get free COVID-19 rapid antigen testing kits for at-home use to help detect infections early and stop the spread.

NEW: To ensure PCR testing is available to those who need it most, only people at high risk of severe outcomes or work in high-risk settings need to book a follow up PCR test if they get a positive result on a rapid antigen test. For more information, see test results and next steps.

Where to get test kits

Rapid test kits can be picked up at select locations on a first-come first-served basis, while supplies last. Additional locations will be added as more kits are available.

Select pharmacies in Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer

Select AHS clinics in other communities

Eligibility

  • To ensure as many people have access as possible, there is a limit of one kit per person/health care number within a 14-day period. If you are picking up a kit for another person(s), have their name, date of birth, and health care card with you.
  • Rapid tests can be used by:
    • people aged 14 and older
    • children aged 2 to 13 if performed by an adult
  • These rapid test kits cannot be used for the Restrictions Exemption Program. Unvaccinated people must pay to obtain proof of negative test result through a private vendor or pharmacy to gain admission.

How to test

  • Each kit contains 5 rapid tests because it takes time for your body to develop enough protein to be detectable by a rapid test after being exposed to COVID-19. 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).

Test results and next steps

Find out what 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

    • Isolate immediately:
      • 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

    • Isolate immediately.
    • 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

    • Isolate immediately 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.

  • Follow up PCR testing for high-risk people

    Effective immediately, PCR tests will be available only for the following individuals:

    • Continuing care residents and health care workers and staff in acute and continuing care settings, shelters and correctional facilities who meet one or more of the following criteria:
      • Need confirmation of a positive rapid test on screening
      • Have COVID-19 symptoms
      • Are part of an outbreak investigation where public health has requested lab-PCR testing
    • Symptomatic household members of a person who works in continuing care or acute care.
    • People with symptoms who are pregnant.
    • Emergency department or hospital patients of all ages who meet one or more of the following criteria:
      • Inpatients who develop new COVID-19 symptoms while in hospital
      • Patients being admitted for symptoms consistent with COVID-19
      • Patients in the emergency department with respiratory illness where a test will change treatment plans
    • Symptomatic community patients who would be eligible for Sotrovimab (monoclonal antibody) treatment if positive:
      • Those who are not immunized and are:
        • 55 or older
        • 18 and older with one of the following health conditions: diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney disease, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or moderate-to-severe asthma
        • children aged 12 to 17, with referral by a pediatric I.D. specialist
      • Those who are immunosuppressed (transplant, active cancer or systemic immune treatment), regardless if immunized or not.
    • People from isolated and remote First Nation, Inuit, and Métis communities and individuals travelling to these communities for work.
    • Asymptomatic continuing care residents returning/readmitted from other health care settings.
    • Pediatric and adult asymptomatic transplant donors and recipients, prior to transplant.
    • Pediatric and adult oncology patients, prior to commencing chemotherapy.
    • Newborns born to COVID-positive parents.
    • Returning international travellers who become symptomatic within 14 days after their arrival.
  • 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.

    This form is not valid proof of a recent test for the purposes of the Restrictions Exemption Program.

Test types

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

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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