Changes to COVID-19 testing eligibility

Government of Alberta

Due to rising demand for PCR tests, Alberta is changing the eligibility for these tests to focus on those who most need them.

Daily PCR testing volumes are beginning to exceed system capacity. Wait times for booking a PCR test are now approaching four days and turnaround time for providing results to patients is approaching 48 hours. To ensure that patient care decisions are supported by timely diagnostic information, PCR testing eligibility will now be focused on those who have clinical risk factors for severe outcomes and those who live and work in high-risk settings.

Alberta Health Services has updated the online COVID-19  assessment tool to help Albertans determine whether they need a PCR test, what type of care to seek based on their symptoms and how to take care of symptoms at home with appropriate support.

Health Link 811 continues to experience high daily call volumes. It is recommended Albertans use the online COVID-19 assessment tool to check their symptoms or the symptoms of someone they may be caring for before they call Health Link.

At this time, the assessment tool has been updated to reflect new PCR testing criteria for adults. The tool will be updated later this week for children and youth.

Those with mild illness should not visit emergency departments seeking a test, as tests in those settings are only used when a test is needed for patient care. If Albertans are unsure whether they need to talk to a doctor about their illness, they can also use the Alberta Medical Association tool to determine what they should do. Most people with mild illness do not need a test or a conversation with their doctor.

Employers and organizations should not require individuals with mild symptoms to have a PCR test to be eligible for sick time off work. It is critical to support those who are sick to stay home with no testing requirements at this time of high transmission.


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