Nova Scotia

How to get tested for COVID-19 in Nova Scotia

As Nova Scotia continues to identify new cases of COVID-19 each day, the province has ramped up its testing capacity and is encouraging people who need — or want — to get tested, to do so.

Asymptomatic testing is available at pop-up sites and mobile units throughout the province

People with symptoms of COVID-19 are still asked to apply for testing online. (Robert Short/CBC)

Nova Scotia is strongly encouraging people to make COVID-19 testing a part of their regular precautionary routine and testing capacity increased in November, allowing the province to offer asymptomatic testing, along with regular symptomatic testing.

So if you need — or want — to get tested, this is how you can do it in Nova Scotia.

Symptomatic testing

People who have symptoms of COVID-19 are prioritized for testing in Nova Scotia.

Anyone who is experiencing a fever or a new or worsening cough can be tested for the virus. Individuals who have two or more of the following symptoms should also be tested:

  • Sore throat.
  • Headache.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Runny nose.

To get a test, individuals can complete the COVID-19 self-assessment online or call 811. Public Health will determine if you require a test. If a test is necessary, you can schedule it online or speak to a nurse over the phone.

Individuals required to get tested will be referred to one of the province's assessment centres and must isolate while waiting for the test.

Once the test is completed, individuals must continue isolating until they receive their results. Other people in the household don't need to isolate unless they start showing symptoms or have been told by Public Health to do so.

Asymptomatic testing

On Dec. 7, the province announced that all Nova Scotians who want to get tested can now do so, even if they don't have symptoms of COVID-19.

This form of testing is recommended to people who have many social interactions through gatherings or many social contacts. The testing is available to people who:

  • Do not have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Have not travelled outside Atlantic Canada in the last 14 days.
  • Have not visited a potential exposure location.
  • Who have not been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

People can book an appointment by using the online assessment and choosing the asymptomatic option. These individuals do not have to isolate while waiting for results.

Asymptomatic people may also be advised by Public Health to get tested if they are a close contact of someone who contracted the virus or if they have been at a recent exposure site. Individuals can fill out the online assessment form here if required. Self-isolation may be required.

Rapid testing

The Nova Scotia Health Authority has been offering rapid testing at pop-up sites across the province since December. Rapid testing is available to people who:

  • Are 16 or older.
  • Do not have any symptoms.
  • Have not travelled.
  • Have not visited a potential exposure location.
  • Have not been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

Individuals who are tested using this method do not have to isolate while waiting for their results, which will come in via text the same day. People who test positive will be sent for a standard COVID-19 test.

Click here to see upcoming rapid testing dates and locations in Nova Scotia.

Mobile testing units

Nova Scotia also started operating two mobile testing units in December, which continue to be used throughout the province. Mobile units are deployed based on the epidemiology needs in the province.

People can visit mobile testing units if they don't have any symptoms, if they aren't a close contact of someone who has COVID-19 and are not isolating due to travel outside the province. 

Click here to see upcoming mobile testing dates and locations in Nova Scotia.

Drop-in and pre-booked appointments are available at these locations, but residents are encouraged to book ahead via the self-assessment website or calling 811.

Swish-and-gargle test for children

Children ages four to 18 may now complete a swish-and-gargle test in replacement of the nasal swab if they are symptomatic.

To use this method, the child must be able to swish salty water in their mouth, gargle, and do both steps three times before spitting the salty water into a container.

Children should not brush their teeth, eat, drink or chew gum before their test. 

The IWK and the Nova Scotia Health Authority advise parents to practise this at home with their children, but do not practise two hours before the test as it would affect the sample.

This test can be requested through the province's online assessment.

Rotational workers

Starting Jan. 15, the province made testing mandatory for all rotational workers returning from outside Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Workers must complete a modified 14 days of isolation, while also being tested on Day 1 and 2 and then again on Day 6, 7 and 8. 

Audits will be completed, and rotational workers will be contacted by phone to remind them of the need to get tested. Anyone who does not get tested will be fined $1,000.

Rotational workers can book an appointment for COVID-19 testing here.

Testing for essential workers, travel

People who need a negative test result for essential work or travel may also be tested for COVID-19, even if they don't have symptoms.

The health authority is working with PRAXES Medical Group to provide PCR swab tests for people who require a negative test result.

This test is also available to people who need a negative test result to travel for compassionate reasons, such as students or migrant workers who need to return to their home country, visiting an ill or elderly relative or attending a funeral.

Individuals can book the test with PRAXES online. The test costs $199 plus tax.