Find out how to get a Covid check to your vacation – are you able to get it on the NHS?
If you plan to travel to Cyprus, Italy or the Caribbean, you will need a PCR test first (Image: Getty Images)
In an increasing number of countries, travelers entering the country are required to have a PCR test carried out to determine whether they are infected with Covid-19.
We break down everything you need to know about testing before you move from cost to reliability.
What exactly is a PCR test?
A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test can detect antigens that stimulate an immune response. In normal English? It shows whether patients have an active, specific infection like Covid-19.
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Why do i need one?
With reopening, more and more targets insist that all arrivals – or those from certain countries – perform a negative PCR test to gain access. This is now mandatory for UK visitors to various Caribbean countries, the Maldives, Mauritius, Cambodia, Cyprus and, new to Italy, among others (for those willing to self-isolate upon return).
Is it becoming standard practice?
This is very likely, according to Jiten Vyas of VFS Global, a visa facilitation provider that can arrange PCR testing. “An integrated Covid-19 test solution can become a catalyst for the recovery of international travel as it is an important risk reducer,” says Vyas.
How do I know if I need one?
Check the entry requirements of your chosen country (see gov.uk). The requirements vary: The Seychelles currently stipulate that after five days of quarantine a second negative PCR result is generated (tested at your own expense). Other nations like Iceland instead require travelers to pay for tests on arrival or have them available free of charge at certain airports. You have to quarantine hours or days for the results.
Can I get one in the NHS?
No. “This is not possible with the NHS as their tests are only offered to those who have symptoms of Covid,” says Vyas.
Where can i get one?
You have to pay to get tested privately. Google it and tons of clinics pop up. For convenience, use VFS Global’s appointment booking system to arrange a test through a reputable clinic (vfsglobal.com).
PCR tests can only be done privately, but you can order one at your home (Image: Shutterstock / Cryptographer)
Can I take the test at home?
Yes. Home Sample Kits can be ordered from VFS or other providers for a self-administered swab or saliva test. After you have created a sample, the kit must be returned by the next day for delivery.
When should i take it?
Predictably, the time frame prior to arrival for which a negative test is considered valid will vary from country to country and will vary between 48 and 120 hours after the smear test.
But how long will I wait for the results?
Usually 24 to 72 hours. The results will be sent to your address within 36 hours if you book a clinic test with VFS. Vyas adds, “Customers who choose the home testing option can expect responses within 36 hours of receiving their sample in the lab.”
Are PCR Tests Correct?
They are 99 percent reliable. Be aware that if tests are performed incorrectly or if limit values are measured – possibly in the early or late stages of an infection – laboratories will provide an “inconclusive” result which is insufficient for entry into countries where a negative test is required.
What do tests cost?
From £ 115 (via VFS) to £ 250. The pain doesn’t always stop there, however: some countries also require a Fit to Fly letter which costs up to £ 100 extra.
What if the test is positive?
Most travel agents or suppliers don’t issue refunds, although you may be able to postpone a booking. “It is also mandatory for both parties – laboratory and customer – to report positive results to the authorities,” added Vyas.
Does travel insurance cover a positive result?
Several travel insurers, including AllClear, offer Covid cancellation protection provided the destination is one to which our government does not allow essential travel.
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