Get the right test

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

More and more countries are introducing testing before they will allow you to visit it. Each country has different timescales that they use to specify how recent a test should have been made. It varies from about five days to just 48 hours. The smaller the time between getting a test, waiting for the result and arriving in the country means that some people might not get the correct test.

cartoon of angry suitcase
Getting the right test is essential © Dan Sperrin

The problem is that there are more than one test being offered and it is important to make sure you get the correct one otherwise you might be placed in quarantine for 10-14 days which might be the length of your holiday.

Largely there are three types of test; a PCR test, one for antigens and one for antibodies.

Most countries at the time of writing want you to have a PCR test rather than one of the other ones but check in advance which test is required.

To clarify what each does and in words even I can understand, a PCR test (PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction) is one that checks for genetic information of the virus which is now by the boffins as BNA. It looks for the coronavirus and records a negative result if it cannot find any suggestion that you infected. That is what countries are looking for – a negative result. A positive result tells that you are infected.

However a PCR test is not 100% accurate and a different PCR test might show a different result in every few cases in a hundred. It also takes longer to process.

You may feel fine and show no symptoms but a positive test result means it is highly unlikely that neither will be allowed to travel or to be allowed into your destination. That means quarantine usually at your cost or being repatriated with all the high costs that can be involved.

But some organisations offer the other types of testing both of which have benefits but not if the destination to which you are going demands a PCR test result.

To repeat, make sure you get the right test.

An antigen test is much quicker to process – just a few hours – and that is its appeal. It checks for an infection with COVID -19 and nine other respiratory viruses but is generally not the test that destinations want despite its efficacy.

If an organisation says that they can provide a test in under a few hours, it is probably not what destinations want.

The other test is one for antibodies. Authorities are trying to evaluate the amount of antibodies in a family, a village or the community at large. Current thinking suggests that antibodies will protect us from further infection. How long that might be for is still being debated.

But, to repeat myself, this is generally not the test that destinations overseas require.

Getting the wrong test has already caused problems. The Bahamas, (on the don’t fly list at the moment) for example, must have a problem or two with incoming passengers because it deliberately says that an antigen or an antibody test is unacceptable. You must have taken a PCR test and have a negative result.

In the last minute rush to go away, do not succumb to quick testing. You could be disappointed. But get the precise requirements from your travel agent, tour operator, airline or ferry. They will know what is required.

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