Coronavirus: Access to rapid antigen tests across Canada

The rise of the Omicron COVID-19 variant has some Canadians searching for ways to ensure their families haven’t contracted the virus.

Rapid antigen tests (RATs) offer on-the-spot COVID-19 test results in less than 20 minutes and have become a hot topic. They can also be self-administered at home.

While they are available for free in some spots, not every province or territory in Canada has made them widely available. Some Canadians are being asked to pay upwards of $40 to get tested at a pharmacy.

The price and limited access to RATs is creating inequality among Canadians, advocates say.


Please note RATs are meant for those who do not display any COVID-19 symptoms and are not considered definitive tests by a number of Canadian health authorities. If you develop any symptoms or test positive on a rapid test, it’s recommended you self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test to confirm infection.


Free testing through the provincial health system is currently unavailable for people who need to get tested for work or travel. However, some private clinics may offer testing for a fee. Long-term care facilities may be able to acquire tests. Businesses who wish to establish workplace screening programs can apply for access to tests. The Canadian Red Cross is also providing free rapid antigen tests to eligible non-profits, charities and Indigenous community organizations in B.C.


Starting Dec. 17, Albertans can get a free RAT kit for at-home use on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last at select pharmacies and clinics every 14 days. Employers can also apply to implement a testing program at their organization. There’s also a voluntary program providing testing kits for kindergarten to Grade 6 students and staff at participating schools.


The province has made a supply of at-home, rapid self-testing kits available to the general public.


On Dec. 14, the province said it was looking at making rapid antigen tests widely available to the public, possibly for free, but for now they’re only available through businesses who have adopted employee testing and also some pharmacies for a fee.


On Dec. 15, the province announced free rapid antigen testing and take-home kits available at pop-up locations across Ontario, effective immediately, until mid-January. Take-home kits are also being offered at select LCBO locations while supplies last. School students are also being given testing kits to take home ahead of the winter break.


Free rapid antigen testing kits are available to the general public. They will “soon” be accessible at most pharmacies. Preschool and elementary school students are also being given self-test kits to take home in December.


The province offers free testing and kits to the general public at certain locations and pop-up events. Businesses can apply for access to tests for workplace programs. The Canadian Red Cross also provides free rapid antigen tests to eligible non-profits, charities and Indigenous community organizations in New Brunswick.


Residents can get tested for free at pop-up sites across the province and also pick up take-home rapid tests from public libraries.


Self-testing kits have been made available in P.E.I. for children under certain conditions. has reached out to Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada’s three territories for the most up-to-date information regarding rapid antigen testing, and will update this story when that info is available.

With files from CTV News’s Christy Somos, Mason DePatie, Abbey Neufeld and Kim Phillips, and The Canadian Press 

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