COVID-19 Rapid Testing


Rapid (at-Home) Tests • How the Tests Work  • Where to Get a Rapid Test • Types of Rapid Tests • Rapid Test Results

​​​​​​Rapid (at-Home) Tests​

At-home rapid tests (often called rapid antigen tests) can be used to determine if you have COVID-19 when you have cold or flu-like symptoms. (See When do I need to perform a test?)

You can perform the test yourself at home and the results are ready in less than 20 minutes, depending on the brand of test you use.

At-home rapid antigen tests can be used to support early diagnosis of COVID-19 and to detect growing clusters in communities. Remember, the best protection against COVID-19 remains vaccination and following public health guidelines (e.g., physical distancing, mask wearing, hygiene measures, small gatherings, etc.).

How the Test​s Work

At-home rapid tests are used in BC only for individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms. (See When do I need to perform a test?)

Rapid tests are done by using a swab to collect a sample from each nostril. The swab will only go a few centimeters inside your nose. It should not hurt.

Rapid tests check for protein fragments specific to the COVID-19 virus. Rapid tests are very good at detecting the COVID-19 virus when testing is done between three to five days after the start of symptoms. This is generally when virus levels in the body are at the highest.

If you test during the first three days after your symptoms appear there is an increased risk of false negatives. A false negative is a negative test result found in a person who is actually infected (positive) with COVID-19. False negatives occur when there isn’t enough virus in your body for the rapid antigen test to detect.

Rapid tests are not used for asymptomatic screening because they do not reliably detect infections in people who do not have cold or flu-like symptoms.

Remember: Seek medical care if you feel you need it, whether you test positive or negative.

Where to Ge​​t a Rapid Test

Rapid tests for at-home use are going to people who live or work in settings with a higher risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission. These include long-term care facilities, health-care workers, and rural, remote and Indigenous communities where access to health care is limited.

The FNHA is working with provincial and community partners to distribute rapid test kits in First Nations communities to complement rapid testing facilities already in place in some communities. Distribution of kits has already begun. Check with your local health centre to ask about supplies.

There are now more than 1,000 community pharmacies in BC distributing the rapid antigen BTNX test kits free of charge to people aged 60 and over. If eligible, you can request a kit containing five tests once every 28 days.

Types of Rapid​ Tests

The FNHA is distributing three brands of rapid COVID-19 tests initially: Lucira, BTNX and Artron. Each kit comes with written instructions. Video demos and instructions are also available from FNHA, BCCDC and the manufacturers:

Regional Health Authorities and other organizations that serve First Nations people may be distributing different brands of test kits.

Rapid T​est Results

Negative R​​esult

If your result is negative, it means the COVID-19 virus was not detected at the time the test was taken. This could be because there was not enough virus in your body for the swab to pick it up or that you do not have the virus. It is still possible that you have COVID-19. If you test negative but continue to have cold or flu-like symptoms, the FNHA recommends you test again in 24 to 48 hours.

Even if the test is negative, it is important to self-isolate until your symptoms improve and you feel well enough to return to regular activities. Symptoms might be from other respiratory illnesses that can also make others sick.

At this time, close contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19 do not need to self-isolate.
If you are identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you need to monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19 and avoid high-risk settings for 10 days.

Positive R​esult

If your result is positive, it means COVID-19 was detected. You very likely have COVID-19 and could pass it on to others.

Next steps:

  • self-isolate (for at least five days from the first day you had symptoms if you are fully vaccinated or are under age 18, or at least 10 days if you are not)
  • manage symptoms
  • let your close contacts know

See I Have COVID-19​ for more about these actions.

Invalid Re​sult

If your test is not valid:

  • discard all the pieces from the first test
  • wash your hands and repeat the process using the second set of test pieces
  • follow the test instructions again

If you have two invalid test results, get a COVID-19 test at a testing location. Find a Health Authority testing location. If you are served by a First Nations health centre, check to see if testing is available there. 

 Wanting to get vaccinated?

Vis​it the BC's provincial COVID-19 vaccination website to register for a vaccination and get up-to-date information and help.