COVID-19 Testing

With the significant increase of COVID-19 cases in our province, we are changing our testing program to make sure people get the kind of test that they need.

Beginning December 27, most Nova Scotians who require COVID-19 testing will need to book an appointment to pick up a rapid test at a Testing Centre and take it home and perform themselves. To determine if you require a rapid test, you will complete the online assessment.

We will focus our PCR testing on people who have symptoms or are close contacts and are at increased risk for severe disease, live in congregate settings or are integral to keeping our health system running. To determine if you require a PCR test, you will complete the online assessment.

A close contact is anyone who has been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, while that person was infectious, find information for close contacts here

Those who require testing but do not meet PCR prioritization criteria will have an appointment to pick up a take home rapid antigen testing kit. Find PCR prioritization criteria in the FAQ section below, Am I eligible for a PCR test?.

If you are using a rapid test and your result is positive, you do not need to do a follow up PCR test. You have COVID-19 and you need to isolate and notify your close contacts. Visit this page for more information on what to do next:

To see if you are able to get a PCR or a rapid test, please complete the online assessment:


I need a test for
travel purposes

Rapid Testing


Book a COVID-19 Test Appointment (rapid test pick up or PCR test)

COVID-19 Testing FAQs

Am I eligible for a PCR test?

There are three categories of eligibility for PCR testing in Nova Scotia.

1. People who have symptoms or have been identified as close contacts AND are one of the following:

  • 50 years and over
  • Unvaccinated (less than full vaccine series) and age 12 or older
  • Live or work in the following congregate settings:
    • Long-term care home
    • Residential care facilities
    • Corrections
    • Shelters and transition houses
    • Acute care settings
  • Adult First Nations and African Nova Scotians
  • Front line and community Health Care Workers with direct patient care and First Responders.  Frontline and community healthcare workers who work directly with patients include: doctors, nurses, paramedics, other hospital employees and continuing care assistants who provide direct patient care, dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants and denturists, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants. Please bring your staff ID to your testing appointment.
  • Adults 18-49 year with one or more risk factors for severe disease:
    • Obesity (BMI >30 kg/m2)
    • Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus     
    • Chronic lung disease, including poorly controlled asthma (e.g. on medication or hospitalization within the past 12 months)
    • Chronic kidney disease, including those on dialysis
    • Down Syndrome
    • Motor Neuron Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Myasthenia Gravis, Huntington’s Disease
    • Immunocompromised or receiving immunosuppressive therapy
  • Children and youth under age 18 with any of the following conditions:
    • history of prematurity < 29 weeks
    • Chronic lung disease including chronic lung disease of prematurity, cystic fibrosis, and severe asthma
    • Down Syndrome
    • Motor Neuron Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Myasthenia Gravis
    • Obesity (BMI >30kg/m2)
  • Pregnant
  • Individuals who cannot perform a rapid test at home and require help due to a developmental, intellectual or physical disability.

2. Testing required for medical procedure

3. Partially or unvaccinated travellers who need 2 negative PCR tests to stop isolating after at least 7 days

All other symptomatic persons or identified as close contacts are asked to complete the online assessment to determine the best test for you. This includes booked appoints for a take home (rapid) test pick up  at a COVID-19 Testing Centre. Drop in appointments are not available.  

Anyone who is booked for a PCR test or tests positive on a take home (rapid) test is asked to complete the online COVID-19 Report and Support screening form when booking their PCR test or reporting a positive rapid antigen test: The form will collect information to help quickly identify people who are eligible for and may benefit from COVID-19 medications and treatments to reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization. It will also be used to identify people who may need additional support from Public Health.

I received a self-swab kit at the airport, now what?

Travelers coming into Nova Scotia at either the Halifax or Sydney Airport will now receive a COVID-19 self-swab test kit. Travelers will be provided with a kit and instructions to complete their test at home.

There are two types of self-swab tests for travellers:

  1. A rapid test given to travelers who are fully vaccinated. These individuals are not required to isolate or get tested.
  2. A self-swab PCR test that you do at home and drop off to the nearest COVID-19 testing centre or Public Health Mobile Unit.

Click here for instructions on how to take the swab. (En Francais)

How to register your take-home PCR test (for travellers only)

Reminder: The swab must be completed within 48 hours of arriving in the province, self-registration completed and can be dropped off at a COVID-19 testing centre or Public Health Mobile Unit. *Please ensure the COVID-19 testing centre is open before you go to drop off your swab. If you do not register your swab, you will not receive your results.

What do I need to know about self-isolation?

Directions for self-isolation may vary slightly for each person, based on their personal situation.

Learn more about when you need to get tested and when you need to self isolate here.

Where do I find information about potential COVID-19 exposure locations?

Visit the potential COVID exposures website to find the latest updates about potential COVID-19 exposures in Nova Scotia.

What if I need help arranging transportation to or can't get into the testing appointment?

If you have symptoms and are getting tested you can walk, drive or cycle to your testing appointment. Do not take the bus or ferry. 

In some cases Nova Scotia Health can arrange transportation, testing in the parking lot of the testing centre for people who have no other means. If you need help with this, please call Nova Scotia Health at 1-844-996-0694 to book your appointment. Nova Scotia Health will work with you to reduce the barriers for testing. 

How do I prepare my child for a gargle test?


Children or youth between the ages of 4 and 18 years old may be able to have the gargle test if able to:
  • swish salty water in the mouth for 5 seconds, then
  • gargle with the salty water for 5 seconds, and repeat both steps 2 more times (total time of 30 seconds), then
  • spit the salty water into a container
There are steps they need to complete BEFORE having the test. 
Children or youth must not: eat, drink, chew gum, brush teeth, smoke or vape for at least one hour before the test. 
Younger children do best when they practice the steps at home with water; just make sure if you do choose to have your child practice that it is done at least two hours before the test. 
For detailed preparation instructions, please view the gargle instruction sheet (PDF) 
It is extremely important that children and youth who are using the gargle testing method follow these guidelines, as failure to do so will require them to have their COVID-19 test via swab collection. 
During the procedure, the child and youth must wear their mask while swishing and gargling.
Note that if a child or youth does have difficulty completing the gargle test, the test cannot be repeated that day – they would have to be tested via swab collection or rebooked for a gargle test at a later date.

What will happen when I get my standard COVID-19 test?

Thanks for doing your part to keep yourself and your fellow Nova Scotians safe and healthy.

There are a few different types of COVID-19 tests in Nova Scotia: standard PCR* tests, gargle tests and rapid tests. The standard PCR test is the most accurate of these three types of tests. Here’s what you can expect if you have booked a PCR test.


  • If you have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19, you can walk, drive, cycle or take a taxi to your testing appointment. Do not take the bus or ferry. 
  • It is recommended that only the person receiving the COVID-19 test should be in the testing site.
  • Children and youth (under 19 years old) who are being tested may have one support person.
  • Pets are not allowed in in any testing site (including drive-through locations). Service dogs are permitted.  
  • Arrive for your booked appointment no more than five minutes early.
  • If you have a provincial health card, student ID or military ID, have it ready.
  • At all locations (except drive-through locations) you’ll be asked to sanitize your hands when you enter. You’ll also be given a medical mask to wear in place of your non-medical mask.
  • A team member will then tell you what to do next.


  • The team member at registration will ask you to confirm your full name, birth date, health card or other ID number, email (if you have one) and phone number. It is important your phone number and email are correct as this will be how you will be reached for your PCR results. Currently, PCR results are only available by email for those with a valid Nova Scotia health card.
  • They will then provide directions about what happens next.

Swab Testing

  • When it’s your turn to be tested, you’ll be asked to sanitize your hands again.
  • The person doing your test will ask you a few basic questions and will then explain what they are about to do.
  • You’ll be asked to slide your mask under your nose, keeping your mouth covered. 
  • They will ask you to turn toward them and tip your head back slightly. 
  • They will insert the swab into one side of your nose and tell you to take a breath.
  • You will feel slight discomfort as they count for between five to 10 seconds. They will then remove the swab.
  • Your eye may water a bit at first. Your nostril may be sensitive for a few seconds and you may sneeze or cough.
  • That’s it! You’re finished. Staff will direct you to exit the building (or the drive-through).

Gargle Testing for Children

  • Children between the ages of 4 and 18 may be offered a gargle test. There are steps they need to complete BEFORE having the test. For detailed preparation instructions, please view the gargle instruction sheet (PDF). If for any reason a gargle test isn't suitable for someone, a swab will be provided. Testing centre staff will help advise.
  • A nose swab will be used for infants and young children (under 4 years old) or when a child/youth cannot swish and gargle. 

*PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction – this type of test looks for trace amounts of the COVID-19 virus to identify positive cases

What happens after my COVID-19 test?

For people with symptoms only: Once you have completed your COVID-19 test, you must self-isolate until you have received your result. 

Learn more about when you need to get tested and when you need to self-isolate here.

For instructions on how to self-isolate please see   

How do I receive my results?

When individuals come for their testing appointment at a COVID-19 testing centre or mobile testing unit, they will be asked at registration for their email and/or phone number, as well as a health card or student identification number.

You’ll be able to receive your results in four ways:

  1. E-mail auto-notifications require the person to have a valid provincial health card and provide an email address.
  2. Auto-call notifications can be provided to those with any valid provincial health card or a student identification number.
  3. Check your test results online ( with any valid provincial health card or student identification number.
  4. Phone call from Public Health or their partners at Service Nova Scotia for those who do not have a health card or student ID.

In most cases, Nova Scotians will receive their test result within 24-72 hours.

Nova Scotians who have been tested should have their health card or identification number ready. They will be asked to enter the last four digits to receive their result. Those with an Ontario health card should enter the last four numbers that appear before the letters on their card.

Email results may be received 24 hours a day. Please check your “Junk” and “Other Inbox” folders for your test results. Look for an email from

Auto-calls may occur daily between noon and 5 p.m. It’s important that people keep their phones with them and on if they are expecting a test result. The caller ID may indicate unknown name, unknown number or a long-distance/out-of-province number; please answer those calls.

If a patient cannot be reached after receiving an email and two auto-calls, and they have not accessed their results online, they will be contacted by staff from Public Health or Service Nova Scotia.

Receiving a phone call does not automatically mean your test result is positive.

Receiving an email does not automatically mean your test result is negative.


Learn more