Use of COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests in Prince Edward Island

The best test for anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 is a lab-based PCR test.  If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (even mild ones), please visit one of the COVID-19 Drop-in clinics to be tested and self-isolate until your results come back.

Rapid antigen tests (e.g., Abbott Panbio™ COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test, BTNX Rapid Response™ COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test) are a screening test for COVID-19.  Rapid antigen tests are less accurate than diagnostic lab-based PCR tests and should only be used as a screening tool and under certain conditions.  

A positive result on a rapid antigen test is considered a preliminary positive until confirmed by a lab-based PCR test.

People who have a preliminary positive result from a rapid antigen test in PEI must self-isolate and go to a provincial testing clinic to get a lab-based PCR test.

Anyone who is symptomatic (including children) and who has a known COVID-19 exposure risk (e.g. travelled out of the province in the last 14 days or contact with someone who has COVID-19 or is suspected of having COVID-19) should begin to self-isolate immediately and be tested with a PCR test at a COVID-19 drop-in clinic.  In this situation, a rapid antigen test should not be used as both a negative and a positive result on a rapid antigen test would be considered preliminary and would need to be confirmed using a lab-based PCR test.

The Government of PEI has made available rapid antigen tests for the following purposes:

  1. For regular and repeated screening of individuals who are not fully vaccinated and who work in long-term care or community care facilities or who are front-line public service providers as detailed in the Vaccination Information and Testing Policy for Front-line Public Service Providers
    1. Screening individuals with a rapid antigen test on a regular schedule (e.g., 2 to 3 times per week) is an effective strategy to improve the accuracy of the test.
  2. For screening children who have a single and mild symptom of COVID-19, who attend school or daycare in PEI, who are too young to be vaccinated (i.e., under the age of 12), and who are not able to visit a drop-in clinic.  
    1. If you child has a recent (i.e., last 14 days) history of travel off the Island or has had contact with someone who has COVID-19, is suspected of having COVID-19, or has recently traveled, then your child should not be tested with a rapid antigen test, but should self-isolate and visit a drop-in clinic to be tested.   
    2. Because rapid antigen tests are less accurate than PCR tests, if the rapid test is negative, it needs to be repeated in 48 hours.  If the test is positive, it must be confirmed by a lab-based PCR test at a COVID-19 drop-in clinic.
    3. Children who are sick should stay home from school until they feel better.
  3. For testing children without symptoms between the ages of 5 and 7 years on Day 0-1 after travelling out of the province.  Children attending school in PEI require a negative test before returning to school after travel.
    1. Because rapid antigen tests are less accurate than PCR tests, if the rapid test is negative, it needs to be repeated in 48 hours (so Day 0-1 and then again on Day 2-3).  If the test is positive, it must be confirmed by a lab-based PCR test at a COVID-19 drop-in clinic.
Rapid antigen tests are less accurate than lab-based PCR tests.  The best test for anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 is a lab-based PCR test.

Rapid antigen tests should not be used:

  • By anyone who is symptomatic (including children) and who has a known COVID-19 exposure risk (e.g. traveled out of the province in the last 14 days or contact with someone who has COVID-19 or is suspected of having COVID-19) should begin to self-isolate immediately and be tested with a PCR test at a COVID-19 drop-in clinic.  In this situation, a rapid antigen test should not be used as both a negative and a positive result on a rapid antigen test would be considered preliminary and would need to be confirmed using a lab-based PCR test.
  • By individuals who are vaccinated against COVID-19 and who have symptoms of COVID-19.  The accuracy of the rapid antigen test is expected to be even lower in people who are vaccinated, therefore if you are vaccinated and have symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate and seek testing at drop-in COVID-19 clinic.
Published date: 
October 26, 2021
Health and Wellness

General Inquiries

Department of Health and Wellness
4th Floor North, Shaw Building
105 Rochford Street
Charlottetown, PE   C1A 7N8

Phone: 902-368-6414
Fax: 902-368-4121

DeptHW@gov.pe.ca