The Ins and Outs of COVID-19 Testing


Navigating the “new normal” of COVID-19 can be difficult, especially with the fluctuating availability of PCR, rapid, and self-screening tests, and the changing guidelines of when and where to get tested.


If you start to experience symptoms, when and how should you get a Covid test? What kind of test should you get?


Here is everything you need to know about the available options for tests and when you should be using them in Ontario or if you wish to travel outside of the province.

Pharmacist holding a COVID-19 test.



When to Get a Test 


You are eligible for a free test if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms or exposure: 

  • You are currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms that are not related to other known causes or conditions

  • You have been exposed to a COVID-19-positive person (if you know when you were exposed, get tested seven days after your last exposure and stay in self-isolation. If you do not know when you were exposed, get tested right away)

  • You have received a COVID Alert app exposure notification

  • You are a resident or worker in a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak, as identified by your local public health unit



Additional Reasons for Testing: 


There are several other reasons you may want to come into Cook’s Pharmacy and have yourself tested:​


  • You are a worker (including support workers), visitor (including caregivers), or government inspector of a long-term care home
  • You are a temporary foreign worker
  • You are Indigenous or you’re a person who identifies as Indigenous
  • You need a test before a scheduled (non-urgent or emergent) surgery in a region with high community transmission — ask your health care provider

  • You have been recommended by your health care provider to get tested before treatment (for example, hematopoietic cell therapy, radiation, systemic cancer treatment, etc.)



  • You are required to be tested before being admitted to a hospital, long-term care home or another congregate living setting/institution
  • You are seeking a confirmatory test after receiving a positive antigen point-of-care test (such as a rapid test) or a positive self-test result
  • You, and one accompanying caregiver, have written prior approval from the General Manager, OHIP, for out-of-country medical services
  • You belong to any other targeted testing group as outlined in guidance from the Chief Medical Officer of Health





When You Can't Get a Test


Sometimes you might not be eligible for testing from the government:

  • As part of a vaccine policy or mandate
  • For entry to a private venue, event or gathering which requires a negative test result to enter
  • To satisfy a travel requirement, unless you are a temporary foreign worker returning to your country of origin or are travelling into and out of remote/isolated First Nation and Indigenous communities for work purposes


Private COVID-19 tests, such as those needed for outbound international travel, are available for purchase at Cook’s Pharmacy.


Please contact us and speak to one of our pharmacists if you have any questions.





Where You Can Get Tested


Cook’s Pharmacies have made PCR testing available by appointment. As well, self-collection lab-based PCR kits can be obtained with no appointment necessary.


Individuals will be able to pick up a lab-based PCR self-collection kit at a participating pharmacy, conduct the specimen collection at home, and then return the collected specimen to the pharmacy to be sent for processing in a lab.


Search which pharmacies are providing these testing options in your area. 





What is the Test like?


Most testing locations use a long, flexible swab to collect a sample through your nose.


You may feel some discomfort for a little while after.

The swab is:

  • Put in one nostril
  • Rotated around for 5 to 10 seconds
  • Sometimes put into the other nostril


Some testing locations, including some pharmacies, use less invasive collection methods such as nose or throat swabs or collection of saliva.

Young girl getting a COVID-19 test.





Workplace and Employer Testing


As the pandemic evolves, the need for rapid, reliable, and affordable screening options have grown. Employees are making their way back into the workplace and travel for work and leisure is also slowly resuming. With this, employee safety continues to be a top priority for everyone, which is why testing is of paramount importance to us all.


Rapid Antigen Screening is a form of Covid testing which can detect the presence of COVID-19 within just 15-20 minutes and helps workplaces with an added layer of safety and security. If you can obtain rapid tests for your workplace, they offer extra peace of mind for the well-being of yourself, coworkers, and employees.


There are free rapid tests open for small to medium-sized businesses with under 150 employees, depending on the current stock of tests available at the time of application. 



Reliable and Secure Screening Onsite Programs


For employers looking for Do It Yourself onsite screening options, Health Solutions by Shoppers has an employer-based program that leverages rapid antigen testing tools, testing center set up, and access to resources and expertise to support planning for employee safety both inside and outside the workplace.


This program also provides employers consolidated reporting to help employers monitor the safety of their workforce.





Rapid Tests for Individuals and Public Travel


Rapid COVID-19 Antigen Screening is available at pharmacies for asymptomatic individuals, including for travel purposes, and is priced at $40 per screening.


Asymptomatic Rapid Antigen Screening for COVID-19 is available for the general public at Cook’s Pharmacy locations across the Waterloo Region.

Rapid COVID-19 tests.





Testing and Travel


Covid testing for travel varies depending on where you’re going and how you’re getting there. COVID-19 testing is available at select Cook’s Pharmacy locations for asymptomatic individuals who require a negative COVID-19 test in preparation for an upcoming international flight. Results are typically available within 48 hours. The cost is $150 plus applicable provincial tax.

Mandatory testing at airport and land borders with the United States.



Air Travel


Unvaccinated travelers arriving to Canada by air, with some exceptions, will be required to take two COVID-19 molecular tests:


  • The first, when they arrive and before exiting the airport

  • The second, towards the end of their 14-day quarantine period


Most fully vaccinated travelers will not be required to take a COVID-19 test on arrival. Fully vaccinated travelers may be randomly selected for mandatory testing but will not need to quarantine unless they test positive.



Land Travel


As of February 15, 2021, the federal government requires all travelers arriving in Canada by land, with some exceptions, to provide proof of either:


  • A negative COVID-19 molecular test was taken in the USA within 72 hours before arriving

  • A positive test was taken 14 to 90 days before arrival if they've recovered from and continue to test positive for COVID-19

  • Once in Canada, unvaccinated travelers will be required to quarantine for 14 days, unless they meet certain exceptions.


As of August 9, 2021, unvaccinated travelers entering at land borders are still required to take a COVID-19 molecular test upon arrival as well as toward the end of their 14-day quarantine.

Most fully vaccinated travelers will not be required to take a COVID-19 test on arrival. Some fully vaccinated travelers may be randomly selected for mandatory on-arrival testing.



Testing Requirements for Travelling Outside of Ontario


Visit Travelling outside of Ontario for more information on travelling to another province or territory and for guidance on travelling to an international destination.

You can keep up to date with evolving Covid safety measures and testing information in Ontario by contacting our pharmacies and speaking with a member of the Cook’s Pharmacy team.