Rapid Antigen Testing - Rapid screen, point of care or POC testing

For individuals

  • Rapid Point of Care (POC) antigen testing is used to screen for potential COVID-19 infection in asymptomatic individuals (i.e., people who have no symptoms) and should not be used for diagnosis of COVID-19 infection
  • POC antigen tests should not be used for individuals:
    • With symptoms
    • Who have had close contact with someone who is positive for COVID-19
    • Who have previously been infected and recovered from COVID-19 (within the last 90 days)
    • To diagnose COVID-19 infection
  • Any positive test results from rapid testing must be confirmed with laboratory-based PCR testing within 24 hours.
  • If you currently have symptoms or are a close contact of a confirmed case, you should be tested with a laboratory-based PCR test at an Assessment Centre and not with a rapid POC antigen screening test. Visit COVID-19: Have Symptoms or Been Exposed for more information.
    • If you have symptoms, you must self-isolate while awaiting your PCR results.
  • If you are an unvaccinated or partially vaccinated close contact of a probable case (i.e., a case who received a positive rapid testing result), you must self-quarantinewhile PCR results are pending. If the case is negative and you do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, you may stop quarantining.
  • If you are a close contact of a confirmed case, regardless of vaccination status you should get tested as soon as possible and again on or around day 7. More information on close contacts  and what to do when you have symptoms for more information.
  • Rapid testing does not replace public health measures such as symptom screening, physical distancing, masking and hand hygiene in the workplace.
  • Rapid testing does not prevent someone from getting COVID-19.
  • A negative test result does not guarantee that you are not infected with COVID-19 or will not spread it to others. False negatives with POC antigen tests are common. Continue to follow all public health guidance to help prevent the spread.

For employers or organizations providing private POC testing

  • Organizations (i.e., workplaces) that participate in rapid testing assume any operational, medical, and/or legal responsibilities relating to this initiative.
    • You must have a procedure in place to provide follow up on test results.
    • You must have clear processes in place to respond, should any individuals in your organization be exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19. 
    • For more information about participating please review the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 Guidance: Considerations for Privately Initiated Testing
  • Anyone who falls within the current Provincial Testing Guidance can continue to receive a free PCR test for COVID-19 at assessment centres, participating pharmacies and community labs
  • Prior to implementation, please understand the local reporting requirements of Hamilton Public Health Services
  • The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce is offering free rapid testing kits for Small and Medium Businesses (with fewer than 150 employees). Details: www.hamiltonrapidtests.ca

Resources for organizations prior to implementation 

Reporting results for organizations performing Rapid Antigen Testing

Rapid tests that are preliminary positive do not need to be reported to Public Health.

  • Confirmatory testing (PCR) at an Assessment and Testing Centre must to be completed within 24 hours of the rapid test.
  • The case and their high-risk unvaccinated or partially vaccinated contacts must begin self-isolation while PCR results are pending
  • A preliminary positive test result from a Health Canada approved rapid antigen POC test is considered a probable case of COVID-19

Frequently asked Rapid Antigen Testing questions

Why participate in a Rapid Antigen Testing program?
Rapid antigen testing can help identify an individual with a COVID-19 infection in the workplace that may have been missed through regular screening protocols (e.g., symptom screening). Rapid antigen screening  can help prevent individuals who don’t have symptoms from unknowingly spreading COVID-19.

Can employees who have symptoms be tested using Rapid Antigen Testing?
No, Rapid Antigen Testing is for people without symptoms and should be used as an added public health measure to routinely screen the workforce. People with symptoms or who are close contacts of positive cases should book an appointment to get tested at a Testing & Assessment Centre.

Rapid antigen screening tests are less sensitive than lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests (and may yield higher false negative test results, i.e., results that indicate that the individual is not infected with COVID-19 when in fact they are). Rapid antigen tests may also, to a lesser extent, yield false positive tests (i.e., results that indicate that the individual is infected with COVID-19 when in fact they are not).

Rapid antigen screening can help identify an individual infected with COVID-19 in the workplace that regular screening protocols might otherwise miss.

Which businesses are eligible to participate in a rapid screening program and how do they enroll?
The Government of Canada is working with Shoppers Drug Mart to make test kits available for a cost at several locations in Ontario. .

The Provincial Antigen Screening Program (PASP) provides free rapid antigen test kits to high-risk communities, organizations and workplaces. 

 The program is available to all organizations that are permitted to open, and require  employees to be physically present on site at the workplace. Organizations mandated to test through a provincial vaccine policy such as Directive 6 are also eligible.

Businesses with fewer than 150 employees can order free rapid antigen test kits for their businesses through the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. Businesses with over 150 employees can order directly from the Ontario government .  

If employees were recently vaccinated, should they participate in Rapid Antigen Testing?
As per Ministry of Health guidance, rapid antigen testing is not recommended for individuals who are fully vaccinated (i.e. more than 14 days after receiving their final dose). The likelihood of COVID-19 is low for fully vaccinated individuals, which reduces the usefulness of screening. Screening guidance is subject to change based on direction by the provincial government. Screening fully vaccinated individuals is not recommended. However, workplaces may decide to include vaccinated individuals in their screening policy.

If employees recently had a COVID-19 infection, should they still participate in Rapid Antigen Testing?
A recent COVID-19 infection may impact antigen testing results. Individuals who have previously been diagnosed with and cleared of COVID-19 infection may resume asymptomatic screening testing 90 days after their COVID-19 infection (based on the date of their positive result).

How should organizations dispose of the rapid antigen test?
Waste from rapid antigen tests is considered hazardous. Please follow provincial guidance for waste disposal.

Waste from COVID-19 Rapid Test Kits that are used at home should be double bagged and disposed of in a garbage container.

If this biomedical waste is being generated by a property which is ineligible for municipal collection, it will need to be collected through a private waste hauler. Examples of ineligible properties would include medical facilities/large clinics, schools, and institutional facilities.

For further information, call the City of Hamilton at 905-546-CITY (2489).

What are the rapid testing reporting requirements?
Prior to initiating testing, organizations must contact Hamilton Public Health at 905-974-9848 or [email protected]. to provide the name of organization,contact information And a message that your organization will be starting the testing program.

Preliminary positive results issued from antigen POCT assays do not need to be reported to public health.

All positive results from antigen POCT must be confirmed with laboratory-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing or molecular POCT (e.g. ID NOW) where the results are reported into the Ontario Laboratory Information System (OLIS).

Organizations are required to report two or more positive cases within a 14-day period to public health at 905-974-9848, option 6.

Organizations that obtained tests through the Hamilton Chamber must report results of all tests (i.e. preliminary positive, preliminary negative and invalid) to the Chamber. The Chamber will then report aggregated data to the Province.

Businesses receiving tests directly from the Province must report de-identified testing data to the Province each week.

What are the next steps if an employee tests positive?
Any positive results from rapid antigen screening must be confirmed with laboratory-based PCR testing. All individuals who test positive on a rapid point of care test are considered positive cases until confirmatory results are available.

Unless directed by public health, employees who test positive must:

  • Go for a confirmatory PCR test (if not available on site and if point of care testing is not considered confirmatory) within 24 hours from their point of care test by booking a test at a Testing & Assessment Centre.
  • Immediately self-isolate while waiting for the confirmatory PCR-based test even if no symptoms are present.
  • Tell their household and close contacts from the last 7 days who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated to quarantine/self-isolate immediately. This includes household and workplace high-risk contacts.