rapid test at pharmacies

Where to get rapid COVID-19 tests in Toronto including a new drive-thru option

Torontonians will soon be able to access drive-thru COVID-19 testing from the convenience of their car, a service that will ideally be one of the most expedient ways to get tested before travel. Go Rapid Test will offer rapid antigen test results in 15 minutes and PCR test results in under 24 hours, with no appointment needed, and online booking.  This means that travellers could use this service before heading to the U.S. and other countries worldwide that require proof of vaccination (travellers should contact their travel destination to confirm the type of test results needed).

The drive-thru service is already available in Calgary and Vancouver (with a walk-thru service available in Banff). You simply purchase your test in advance. As no appointment is needed, you arrive at the drive-thru collection centre during their hours of operation and show your digital receipt as proof of purchase.  A registered nurse or a trained health care practitioner will conduct the test without you leaving your car. Test results will be emailed to you.

Depending on the service you choose, the tests required for traveling will set you back anywhere between $74 and $350.

Paid rapid-testing and same day/next-day results, although pricey, are available at private clinics across Ontario. Click here for seven places in Toronto where you can get (near) same-day COVID-19 test results for travel.

What are the different types of COVID-19 tests?

PCR Lab Tests: PCR is the most commonly used Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) technique for detecting nucleic acid in a sample (meaning—it is highly accurate and can show if someone currently has COVID-19). These tests are considered the gold standard in COVID-19 testing (it’s a good idea to opt for this test when possible).

Rapid PCR Tests: similar to the PCR lab test, these tests look for virus cells and shows if someone has a current COVID-19 infection, although these tests are less sensitive than lab-based PCR tests.

Rapid Antigen Tests: these tests look for proteins from the COVID-19 virus. Results are available in about 15 to 20 minutes, so it’s useful for repeated screening of asymptomatic people in high-risk settings (e.g., staff/visitors in long-term care homes). These tests however aren’t as accurate as PCR tests. People who receive a positive result with a rapid antigen test, but who are considered low risk (e.g., no symptoms), may require a confirmation PCR test.

Serology Tests: look for antibodies to COVID-19 in the blood; can help determine if a person was infected with COVID-19 in the past. The accuracy of these tests has not been proven (it is not yet known whether having these antibodies means that a person is immune to COVID-19).

What about Canadians travelling to the U.S.?

The U.S. will opens its land borders with Canada and Mexico to vaccinated travellers on Nov. 8., nearly 20 months after non-essential travellers were prevented from crossing the land borders to address the COVID-19 pandemic. All non-American travellers, arriving by air, land, or by sea, must be fully vaccinated against the virus.  Individuals who have any combination of two doses of an FDA approved/authorized vaccine, or a WHO emergency use listed COVID-19 two-dose series (Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Sinovac, and Johnson & Johnson) are considered fully vaccinated.

While, up until the beginning of this year, travellers didn’t need to show negative PCR tests before entering the U.S.—that will change in the New Year for travellers by air.

Effective January 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will require all air passengers two years of age and over entering the U.S. (including U.S. citizens and permanent residents) to present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within three days of departure​, or proof of recovery from COVID-19 within the last 90 days. As of publication, fully vaccinated travellers entering the U.S. by land from Canada will not need to present a negative COVID-19 test when the border reopens on Nov. 8.

What tests are needed to get into the U.S.?

Travellers to the U.S. will need to have viral tests (NAAT or an antigen test) conducted to determine if they are currently infected with COVID-19.  Rapid tests will also be acceptable as long as they are viral tests.

Click here for more COVID-19 Ontario news.