PCR test for travel: When do I need the Covid test and how do I book?July 8, 2021
IF you're desperate to get away on holiday abroad this year then you'll have to take a PCR test.
International trips are now on the cards for Brits, but only to certain spots.
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Many countries now demand a negative Covid test from you before you can enter the country.
Under the traffic light system in the UK you will also have to produce a series of tests when you get back.
The Polymerase Chain Reaction tests (PCR tests) are seen as the "gold standard" when it comes to testing and are different to the lateral flow tests available for free from the NHS.
You will have to pay for the PCR tests if you want to use them for travel with some places charging over £100.
You should not use the NHS testing service to test yourself before a holiday and the government has asked that you instead arrange a private test.
WHERE TO BOOK A TEST
On the High Street
High Street retailers such as Boots and Superdrug both offer PCR tests.
At Boots you can arrange a private test for £99.
You will typically get your results within 48 hours but if the test is inconclusive your fee will be refunded and you will then be given the option of paying to repeat the test.
Each tests comes with a "fit to fly certificate".
Superdrug also offers a PCR test for £120.
It's important to note that some of the High Street tests are not offered to children and some countries require testing of younger children to let you in.
There are many other private clinics across the country which offer PCR test and the government lists them all here.
Airlines and holiday providers
If you're jetting off into the sun then some airlines are also offering their own PCR tests.
British Airways has endorsed four suppliers which it will also accept tests from.
These tests are available across the country and vary in price depending on which provider you choose.
British airways has given passengers discount codes to some suppliers which means tests from Nomad will cost £166, from CityDoc £93, MedicSpot £127 and Halo £75.
Easy Jet is offering a discount on tests from Randox Health which will cost £72 and Jet2 is offering tests from Living Care Group which will cost £75.
RyanAir has linked to private clinics around the country with prices ranging from £149 to £219.
Tui also offers tests from Screen 4 and Randox, priced at £70 and £89 respectively.
Virgin Atlantic doesn't offer discounts but also links to other providers.
Hays Travel is also offering customers a range of government approved PCR tests from £45 – which the company are not making a profit on.
What are the differences between PCR and lateral flow tests?
NHS Test and Trace has made rapid lateral flow antigen testing available alongside standard lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
These tests play a different, but crucial role in the fight against the coronavirus in the UK.
The main differences between PCR and lateral flow Covid tests are:
- The length of time for results
- Accuracy and sensitivity to the coronavirus
- One test is checked in a lab; the other gives an "on the spot" result
PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests are the more thorough ‘swab’ tests offered to Brits for more than a year.
The swab can be taken at a drive-through centre or at your home.
It is sent to a laboratory where a lab technician looks for genetic material of the virus using highly specialised equipment.
Results are given in up to five working days by text or a phone call.
The PCR tests are much better at finding very small amounts of the virus, especially early during an infection.
So these are used primarily in people who have Covid symptoms.
The PM has confirmed he still hopes to allow travel from May 17 and said £150 PCR tests could be replaced with £5 lateral flow swabs so struggling families could afford them.
Travel experts have warned that ordinary families face being priced out of holidays abroad if ministers insist on full tests to travel abroad.
EasyJet chief Johan Lundgren told The Sun: “The proposed requirement for two tests could add on upwards of £500 for a family of four."
Rapid testing (lateral flow testing) means results are available "on the spot" within just half an hour.
They work in a similar way to the most commonly known lateral flow rapid test strip – pregnancy tests.
A positive result is seen as a dark band or a fluorescent glow on the test strip, with a result in about 30 minutes.
The lateral flow Covid tests are mostly used by people who don’t have coronavirus symptoms (asymptomatic).
A Covid lateral flow test uses a swab from a patient's nose or throat to quickly determine if they are infected with the virus.
About one in three people who have Covid in the UK never show any symptoms – but that does not mean they are not infectious.
This type of test is very good at identifying people who have the virus and are infectious on the day.
But they are not as good as the PCR test at finding the bug in people who aren’t infectious yet. So, that means the results are not 100 per cent correct.
Workplaces can also get testing for their employees by registering with the Government.
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