Over the past year, words like ‘lateral flow’, ‘PCR’ and ‘antibody testing’ have become firmly ingrained into our vocabulary. But what’s the difference, and why do you need a PCR test (or multiple) to travel, even if you’re fully vaccinated?
What is a PCR Test?
PCR tests and lateral flow tests are both used to determine whether somebody is currently infected with COVID-19. There are, however, a few key differences that make them better suited to different situations. For example, lateral flow tests provide a pretty much instant, ‘rapid’ result, whereas PCR tests are sent to a laboratory for processing.
Most importantly, PCR tests have been shown to be more sensitive than lateral flow tests, and are therefore more likely to pick up a case of COVID-19. Although lateral flow tests are quick, convenient and fairly accurate for everyday use, they may fail to pick up an infection in the very early or late stages, when only a small level of COVID-19 is present.
As a result of this important distinction, PCR testing is required for travel and lateral flow tests are generally not accepted. You can find out which tests are accepted by your destination country here.
Why do I Need a PCR Test for Travel?
Even if you’re fully vaccinated and do not display symptoms, you might still pick up and spread COVID-19. This is completely expected, as no vaccine is 100% effective. For this reason, you will likely still need to arrange PCR testing before you travel.
Whatever the rules are in your chosen destination, proof of a negative PCR test prior to departure (and sometimes after returning) is currently still required for those entering the UK, so it’s also important to be well prepared for your return.
This applies whether the country you travelled from sits on the ‘red’, ‘amber’ or ‘green’ list, and regardless of your vaccination status (although some rules on quarantine periods vary based on whether you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated).
What do I Need to do?
If you’re travelling abroad it’s vital to check the travel rules in your destination, as many countries require proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test before entry. You should also stay up to date with current regulations here in the UK, ready for your return to Exeter.
Familiarising yourself with these rules well in advance is a good idea; if you do need to take PCR tests, it’s important to establish when they should be taken to provide a valid result. Many countries accept a test taken up to 72 hours prior to either departure or arrival, but this does vary.
Where can I get a PCR Test for Travel?
Free NHS PCR tests are reserved only for those showing symptoms of COVID-19. For travel purposes, you need to purchase your own test. If you’re looking for a PCR test in Exeter, our pharmacy is experienced in PCR testing for travel.
When you book your PCR test at our Exeter pharmacy, we can also offer any other advice you need for your travels – whether this be COVID-19 related or general travel advice. You can find out more about our travel clinic services here:
If you are looking to jet off, don’t get caught out –
Call us to book your PCR test today!