What's a PCR Test?
RT-PCR (Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction) antigen testing is the gold standard, quick and accurate way of identifying any trace of current Covid-19 infection in the body. This is the most common type of test used to prove you're not currently infected when travelling internationally.
These test require a swab, which can be self administered or be carried out by a healthcare professional. These swabs are then sent to a specialist lab who often can return results in less than 24 hours.
What is a Fit to Fly Test?
Fit to Fly Certificates (also know as Fit2Fly) have wider uses than just Covid-19 Testing but in the context of the pandemic many airlines and countries require a signed letter from a Doctor, GP or Healthcare professional confirming a recent negative test.
Not all testing providers provide this declaration, so if it's required for your holiday or business trip it's important you buy from a suitable provider. Some laboratories and clinics provide printed documents, while others will be able to produce printable digital PDFs which provide proof of you current negative test results which you can share with airlines and your travel destination.
What is Test to Release?
Currently when returning to England from overseas travel you are required to self isolate. Test to Release is a specific scheme which allows travellers to reduce the time spent in self-isolation if they test negative in a private coronavirus test. This doesn't remove the need to self-isolate, it just reduces the duration and there are some quite specific rules about when the test needs to be carried out and what type of test is required.
You cannot use the Test to Release scheme if you've been in or through certain countries in the 10 days before you arrive in England. Check the list of countries subject to a UK travel ban.
The Test to Release test cannot be any earlier than five days after you return in the UK. If you receive a negative test result you can end your self-isolation. To gain the most benefit from the Test to Release scheme many travellers are keen for a fast turnaround test.
What is a rapid Antigen test?
Unlike PCR tests which require swabs to be sent to a specialist lab, Rapid Antigen tests can return results without being sent to a specialist facility. Some tests even provide results in while you wait in less than fifteen minutes. These tests are also known as lateral flow.
Though useful and widely available these rapid covid tests are not usually recognised by airlines or destinations as proof of a negative infection. They usually require PCR tests. So it's important not to buy a Lateral Flow Test if you require a PCR Test.
What is a serology covid test?
Serological tests can be used by scientists to measure the antibody response of an individual which can help determine if someone has been infected with the COVID-19 Virus in the past. These kinds of test can be interesting for an individual if they didn't take a PCR test when suffering from symptoms in the past or to determine if someone has had an asymptotic infection.
Though many clinics and laboratories offer private serological tests these aren't generally used by the travel industry or destination locations who are more concerned about someone's current health and if they have been infected with the virus.