Novel Coronavirus COVID-19

Rapid Testing - Questions and Answers


The rapid test units in Manitoba (called Abbott ID NOW) can provide COVID-19 results within minutes. The test is taken with a nasal swab and must be done by a trained health care provider.

It is important to know that rapid tests have limitations and can only be used in certain circumstances. They will help support COVID-19 testing in Manitoba, but will not replace how tests are done in most situations and for most people.

The federal government is responsible for centrally purchasing and distributing rapid test units to provinces and territories.  Manitoba received 13 units in early November and enough supplies for more than 4,000 tests.  The province is responsible for deciding where the units will be located. More instruments and tests are expected to arrive over the coming weeks and months.

Most devices will be located in remote communities, including Swan River, The Pas, Churchill, Thompson, Lynn Lake, Gillam and Flin Flon, where delays due to transportation issues, weather or other factors could affect access to conventional testing and a timely public health response. These communities also have existing lab infrastructure, which is needed for rapid tests.

Two will be provided to St. Boniface Hospital to respond to a COVID-19 outbreak and one will help Manitoba officials evaluate how best to use these tests to help protect Manitobans. The remaining units will be deployed by the province in response to future outbreaks or other emerging needs.

If a rapid test unit is located in your community, your health care provider will decide if you should have a rapid test, based on provincial guidelines. The test can only be given to people who have COVID-19 symptoms, and must be taken within seven days of symptom onset.  Because it is less accurate, rapid test results must be verified by a conventional COVID-19 test.

A conventional COVID-19 test detects the genes of the virus from a deep nasal swab and is designed to be able to detect large or small amounts of virus. Rapid tests are designed to detect COVID-19 only when large amounts of virus are present, meaning they are faster but will provide less accurate results.

At this time, the rapid test will not replace the conventional COVID-19 test. It is much faster, but has other limitations.  It is more likely to give false negative results, so everyone who takes a rapid test still has to have a second, conventional test to confirm their diagnosis.

With a limited number of units available, rapid testing units must be placed strategically to support the province’s overall public health response. Rapid tests are most accurate when used in a community or setting where viral activity is high.

Rapid test units are only located in selected communities and the province sets guidelines for their use. Your health care provider will decide if a rapid test is appropriate for you. Considerations include your location, test availability and whether and how long you have had symptoms.

No.  Because rapid tests are more likely to give a false negative result, it must be verified by a second, conventional COVID-19 test.  Your health care provider will provide you with more information about the process and when you can stop isolating.

Rapid tests are another tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19. They are being used in a limited capacity in locations where the value of immediate results outweigh the inconvenience of having to conduct two tests.

The rapid test units had to be approved for use in Canada on an emergency basis by the federal government.  The Government of Canada also placed the first order of these units for the entire country, and then allocated units to each province and territory. 

We have been working with health care providers and key partners to develop a plan so that our rapid test units could be deployed in the community as soon as possible after they were delivered.

News release: Manitoba Launches Plan to Implement Targeted, Rapid Testing for COVID-19 to Protect Manitobans (November 3, 2020)