COVID-19 testing and treatments
Treatments are not a substitute for vaccination. The best way to protect yourself and others is by getting vaccinated.
Last updated: November 17, 2023
On this page:
- COVID-19 testing
- Treatments for people who have COVID-19
- Who can access treatments
- How to get treatment
Testing can determine if you have COVID-19. If you are unsure about your symptoms or whether you should get a COVID-19 test, use the COVID-19 Self-Assessment tool.
Rapid antigen tests
Rapid tests can be used to test people with COVID-19 symptoms at home.
Test kits are available for free at many community pharmacies. Anyone can ask for it. You don’t have to show identification.
If you can’t go to a pharmacy, a friend or family member can pick up a test kit for you.
For more information on testing for COVID-19, please review the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) Testing page.
Testing for travel
Testing to screen for COVID-19 before traveling is not available through the B.C. provincial health care system. You may get an exemption if you must travel for medical reasons.
Two therapeutic treatments for COVID-19 are currently approved if you have mild or moderate symptoms of COVID-19:
- Paxlovid is a course of antiviral pills that can be taken at home
- Remdesivir must be given through a vein and requires visits to a clinic or hospital
These treatments do not stop you from getting COVID-19. They are used to prevent severe illness in people who are at higher risk from COVID-19.
To be effective, they must be started within 7 days of developing symptoms. For safety reasons, these treatments must be prescribed by a health care provider. You may not be able to receive treatment if you are already taking some other medications.
Visit the BCCDC website for more information about COVID-19 treatments.
Treatments may be beneficial if you have mild or moderate symptoms that started in the past 7 days and tested positive, and if you fit into any of the following situations:
Or 2 of the following 3 situations:
- 70 years or older
- 60 years or older and Indigenous
Are unvaccinated, or have not received 2 vaccines plus a booster in the past year:
- See the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine: Canadian Immunization Guide
Have 1 or more serious chronic medical condition:
- You have 1 or more serious chronic medical conditions
For information on other antivirals including Remdesivir, see BC Centre for Disease Control’s treatment page. Currently, COVID-19 treatments are recommended for people 18 years and older.
If you have a health condition that weakens your immune system, you are considered clinically extremely vulnerable.
- Solid organ transplant and receiving immunosuppressive treatment
- Bone marrow or stem cell transplant
- Treatment for cancer, including haematological malignancies
- Diagnosis with a moderate to severe primary immunodeficiency
- Untreated or advanced HIV (CD4 ≤ 200 cells/mm3 )
- On dialysis or have severe kidney disease and receiving any immunosuppressants
- Taking immunosuppressive treatment
- High dose of steroids
- Biologics (for example: adalimumab, etanercept, infliximab, interferon products)
- Anti-CD20 agents (for example: rituximab, ocrelizumab, ofatumumab, obinutuzumab, ibritumomab, tositumomab)
- B-cell depleting agents (for example: epratuzumab, belimumab, atacicept, anti-BR3, alemtuzumab)
- Immune-suppressing agents (for example: cyclophosphamide, cisplatin, methotrexate)
- Have received a letter from the Office of the Provincial Health Office stating that you are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) because you are immunocompromised
If you have any of the following conditions, you are considered clinically extremely vulnerable.
- Cystic fibrosis
- Severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma requiring hospitalization in the last year
- Taking biologics for asthma, severe lung disease and at least one of the following:
- Long-term home oxygen therapy
- Assessment for a lung transplant
- Severe pulmonary arterial hypertension
- Severe pulmonary fibrosis/interstitial lung disease
- Rare blood disorders
- Diabetes treated with Insulin
- Splenectomy or functional asplenia
- Significant developmental disabilities, including:
- Down Syndrome
- Cerebral Palsy
- Intellectual Developmental Disability (IDD)
- Receiving supports from Choice in Supports for Independent Living (CSIL) or Community Living British Columbia (CLBC)
- Pregnant and with a serious heart disease (congenital or acquired) that requires observation by a cardiologist throughout pregnancy
- Neurological or other conditions causing significant muscle weakness around lungs requiring the use of a ventilator or continuous Bi-level positive airway pressure (Bi-PAP)
- On dialysis or have stage 5 chronic kidney disease (eGFR ≤ 15ml/min)
You may benefit from treatment if you have one or more chronic conditions. Treatment availability also depends on your age and whether you are vaccinated.
Examples of serious chronic medical conditions include:
- Heart failure or heart disease
- Chronic kidney or liver disease
- Chronic lung disease such as COPD
- Neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s
If you have reviewed the criteria and believe you would benefit from treatment, contact your family doctor, nurse practitioner or specialist as soon as possible. Delays may mean you can't get Paxlovid or Remdesivir, because treatment must be started within 5 days of developing symptoms.
You aren't guaranteed treatment. Paxlovid and Remdesivir treatments are not suitable for everyone and must be prescribed by a health care provider. At any stage, it may be decided that treatment isn't right for you.
Don't have a family doctor?
If you don't have a family doctor, nurse practitioner or specialist, or can't get an appointment within 3 days of symptoms starting, you can request treatment through Service BC.
The request process has 4 steps. You must complete each step. Read the instructions carefully and make sure you have all the required information.
Estimated time: 15 minutes
If your self-assessment answers show that you might benefit from treatment, you will be instructed to call Service BC. Over the phone, an agent will:
- Ask you to repeat your answers
- Confirm that you meet the criteria
- Collect more information to send to the health care team
You will need:
- Your Personal Health Number (PHN)
- A phone number where you can receive calls
- A residential mailing address
The Service BC agent will then advise you on the next steps. If you have medical questions, the agent is not trained to answer them. You should wait to ask the medical team during your clinical assessment.
Estimated time: within 3 days of starting the process
You will receive a phone call from a health care provider between 9 am and 9 pm. They will:
- Review your medication and health information
- Provide more information about Paxlovid and Remdesivir treatments
You should be prepared to discuss:
- What medications and supplements you are currently taking
- Any medical conditions you have
- Any recent medical procedures
- Any allergies you have
The medical team will decide whether it is safe for you to receive treatment.
Estimated time: within 5 days of starting the process
If you are prescribed Paxlovid, you will get instructions on how to receive your treatment supply.
If you are prescribed Remdesivir, you will be directed to a local health care facility to receive treatment via infusion.
While you're waiting for a decision on your treatment, review BCCDC guidance on managing COVID-19 symptoms at home.
If you develop severe symptoms, you should immediately:
- Call 911
- Visit an urgent care clinic or emergency department
If you are told that Paxlovid or Remdesivir treatment is not right for you, you should:
- Follow the self-isolation guidelines
- Learn how to manage your COVID-19 symptoms at home
- Seek medical attention if your symptoms get worse
For people who do not meet the eligibility criteria for publicly funded Paxlovid, a clinical trial is currently recruiting patients in B.C. For more information, please visit CanTreatCOVID.