Rapid Test Kits 101

As we navigate the third year of the pandemic, PCR and rapid tests are now a part of our everyday toolkit. The Canadian government has done an exceptional job of distributing rapid test kits to the general public, and we're happy to see that so many of our fellow Canadians now have access to them. Although they have quickly become a part of our protective routine, many questions still surround the topic.

Citizens and businesses alike are wondering how these tests work, where they can buy rapid COVID tests in Ontario and other areas, where to get them at no cost, as well as how dependable they are considered to be overall.

WHAT IS AN ANTIGEN TEST?

A rapid antigen test is conducted via a nasal or throat swab and is a method that detects specific proteins on the surface of the virus. These are called antigens. These tests produce results within 15 minutes, as opposed to PCR tests which have a turnaround time of 24 hours to 3 days. They require no lab equipment and can be performed virtually anywhere.

The main benefits of rapid test kits are their speed, cost efficiency and ease of use. The ability to read your results within minutes, without lab equipment or a healthcare professional, is a huge benefit of using rapid antigen tests.

When compared to PCR testing, instead of waiting days for your results, people who test positive via an at-home COVID test can isolate and take other precautionary measures immediately. They can take action to protect others at the moment they receive their results, rather than waiting in uncertainty for days.

GET YOUR RAPID ANTIGEN TEST HERE

ARE ANTIGEN TESTS ACCURATE? HOW ACCURATE ARE ANTIGEN TESTS?

When conducting a rapid antigen test, there are specific instructions that the user is required to follow. Though they are quite simple, easy and straightforward, if these steps are not followed correctly, the accuracy of the results will be affected. We outline how this occurs below.

Furthermore, when comparing rapid antigen tests to PCR tests, although rapid test kits are an exceptional tool for us to use, PCR tests do have a higher sensitivity and are considered to be more accurate overall. Their process is done at a molecular level, meaning they can detect even the smallest amount of viruses. However, this does not take away from the accuracy and efficiency of rapid antigen tests. They're most sensitive when viral loads are high, meaning when those are most infectious, and work great for those who are looking for fast results.

“The more virus you have in your nose, the more virus you’re breathing out into the air, and the more virus other people can then breathe in,” said a testing expert at John Hopkins University, Dr. Gigi Gronvall. “The tests are very accurate, and correlate very well with PCR when people are most infectious.”

Rapid antigen tests are an integral part of our protective toolkit while we navigate the third year of the pandemic. They offer speed, convenience and affordability while allowing us to get ahead of infections when they do occur.

HOW DO I USE AN ANTIGEN TEST?

Although tests have been around for quite some time, there is still some confusion on how these tests work from start to finish. Many still search for how to do a rapid COVID test, looking for further clarification on the process.

Once a nasal or throat swab has been collected from the person being tested, the administrator then adds a few drops of the buffer liquid to the accompanying tube. The swab is then dipped into this liquid and must be thoroughly extracted. The user can ensure this by squeezing the swab via the sides of the tube. This helps to ensure the specimen and buffer liquid is mixing efficiently.

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Once the two have been successfully mixed, the user disposes of the used swab, adds a few drops of the mixed liquid to the test strip and waits 15 minutes for the results.

Inside the testing cartridge that we're now all familiar with there is a test strip. This test strip is coated in COVID-19 antibodies that bind to the viral protein of the infection. If the viral protein of the infection is present in the specimen, it will bind the antibodies, producing a visual identifier at the other end of the test strip. If the viral infection is not present, no identifier will be produced.

Let's break this process down into steps:

Step 1: Make space for your test kit and all elements included within the kit. These items include:
• Sterile swab
• Extraction buffer tube
• Test cassette reader

Step 2: Collect the sample via the nasal passageway by inserting the sterile swab 2cm into the nostril toward the throat. Insert until resistance is met, but do not apply pressure. Rotate the swab 4 times for 15 seconds against the nasal wall and then remove it. Repeat this process in the other nostril with the same swab.

Step 3: Add 10 drops of buffer liquid to the accompanying tube (if applicable, as not all models require this step).

Step 4: Insert swab into extraction buffer tube and, while squeezing the tube, spin the swab more than ten times.

Step 5: Remove the swab from the extraction tube while squeezing the sides of the tube. This further extracts the liquid from the swab.

NOTE: Incorrect results may occur if the swab is not squeezed properly. This is due to excess buffer liquid remaining in the tube.

Step 6: Add nozzle to buffer tube (if applicable, as not all models include this).

Step 7: Apply 3-5 drops of extracted sample onto the specimen well of the test cassette reader. Wait 15 minutes for results.

Step 8: Read your results.

• A coloured band appears in the top section of the result window. This is known as the control line (C) and shows that the test is working properly. Even if this line is faint, the test can be considered to be performing properly. If no control line is visible, the test is invalid.
• A coloured band appears in the lower section of the result window if the result is positive. This is known as the test line (T). Even if this line is faint or not uniform, the result should be considered a positive result.

There is, of course, an accompanying instruction pamphlet that is included with each test kit. We also have some additional resources for our BTNX Rapid Test Kits which can be found on this page.

ACQUIRING FREE COVID TESTS IN CANADA

Now that rapid antigen tests have been available for free across the country, we're beginning to see that they do come at some cost, such as one's time. Not everyone has a flexible enough schedule to wait in lines or travel between stores due to low inventory, and acquiring free test kits isn't always guaranteed at the time of need. Some prefer to go to their preferred retailer (like PPE Supply Canada!) and purchase rapid antigen tests from them, as they know they will be receiving the product straight to their door, and promptly. They may also prefer to isolate themselves until they get tested, to reduce any risk of infecting others.

With this in mind, for those who are lucky enough to get to a location in time for the stock to be available or have a more flexible schedule, this way of acquiring test kits is highly encouraged. We always want our fellow Canadians to have access to PPE in the most efficient of ways, as we understand how taxing this pandemic has been on all of us.

RETAILERS IN ONTARIO CARRYING FREE RAPID ANTIGEN TEST KITS

Over 2,300 grocery stores and pharmacies in Ontario are now offering free rapid test kits, with some individual retailers only offering them to those who make orders online.

The province has provided a full list of addresses for participating locations (we suggest you search by your city for more relevant results).

Below are a few of these retailers with more specific information on how to acquire free tests from their locations:

Longo's: Free kits are available only through its Grocery Gateway online delivery service.

Wal-Mart: Free kits are available only through its grocery pickup in-store or by placing an online order.

Shoppers Drug Mart: Free kits are available at the front cash registers at participating stores. You can find your local participating Shoppers Drug Mart here.

Rexall Pharmacy: Free kits are available at the front cash registers at participating stores.

Metro: Free kits are available at their customer service desk (limited supply).

Food Basics: Free kits are available at their customer service desk (limited supply).

Other participating stores include Fortino's, Sobey's, Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore, Zehrs and The North West Company.

As of now, supplies are limited to one pack of 5 tests per household, although the province will be revisiting which retailers are interested in supplying rapid tests to the public on an ongoing basis, helping to ensure that all of our communities have access to them.

WHICH SHOPPERS DRUG MART CONDUCTS COVID-19 TESTING?

Participating Shoppers Drug Marts in both Ontario and Alberta offer various COVID-19 tests, including rapid antigen tests, COVID-19 RT-PCR tests and viral PCR tests. This is great news, as new variants are on the horizon and more Canadians require access to testing. However, this service is only available to those who meet the criteria.

Individuals who are eligible for this service include the following:

Educational Staff and Students
• Available for select public and private schools in Ontario
• Must be asymptomatic
• Typically conducted via a rapid antigen test

Asymptomatic Citizens
• Available in Ontario only
• Only eligible if you are not displaying symptoms associated with COVID-19
• Required to complete a form prior to booking your appointment (this form determines your eligibility)

International Travellers Leaving Canada
• Available in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario only
• Considered to be those who are travelling internationally and require a negative COVID-19 test
• Priced within a range of $150/test for those in Alberta and $199/test in BC and Ontario
• Results typically within 48 hours or less

International Travellers Entering Canada
• Available in Alberta only
• Strictly for those who are entering Canada from the Calgary International Airport
• Travellers must be asymptomatic and plan to quarantine in Alberta

Individuals within these categories are considered to be eligible for a Shoppers Drug Mart COVID-19 testing appointment and to have either a rapid antigen test, RT-PCR test or viral PCR test conducted for them.

You can find your participating Shoppers Drug Mart by following this link.

WHERE TO BUY RAPID COVID TESTS

As with any personal protective equipment or testing devices, it is recommended that you purchase from your trusted, established and preferred retailer. You want to ensure that the tests you are receiving are authentic, to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Here at PPE Supply, we offer reliable rapid test kits from credible brands such as BTNX and ECOTEST. Choose from the BTNX pack of 5 or the ECOTEST single tests, whatever suits your needs! They have been purchased directly from the manufacturer and are an exceptional addition to any personal protective tool kit.

When purchasing from PPE Supply Canada, you can feel confident that you're purchasing a reliable, authentic product. Rest assured knowing that your order will be arriving promptly and securely, straight to your door. We pride ourselves on our speed to fulfill and deliver orders, as we understand how important it is for our valued customers to acquire test kits as soon as they need them. We want to ensure that individuals are self-isolating as early as possible if they are sick.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Rapid test kits are an integral tool to combat COVID-19 and its variants. Their speed, convenience and ease of use help us to stay on top of any infections, contributing to the hindrance of the spread of the Delta, Omicron, BA.2 or Deltacron strains. With this in mind, it's important to follow the instructions carefully to ensure accurate results.

If you decide you purchase your test kits, ensure that you're purchasing from a trusted and established retailer, such as PPE Supply Canada! We'll get you your test kits in record time!

Please kindly note that we have purchased our test kits directly from the manufacturer. They have not been provided to us by the Government of Canada and we have not received any funding from the Government of Canada to acquire these Rapid Test Kits.

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