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COVID-19 Travel Testing: The Ultimate Guide

COVID-19 Travel Testing: The Ultimate Guide
Anderson Team
January 15, 2023
Est. Reading: 4 minutes

COVID-19 is a dangerous respiratory disease that spreads easily and in order to tackle it early testing and diagnosis have always been the first and most important step. Early testing helps identify infected people, treat them quickly, and prevent disease spread. Quite obviously, travellers from one part of the country or world need to get tested to halt the spread of this disease’s variants.

With the authorities reinstating COVID-19 travel restrictions in various parts of India and the world, COVID tests are back in the fold. Travellers across the world need to opt for either the rapid antigen or the RT-PCR tests. At this juncture, Anderson Diagnostics, Chennai has continued providing our first-rate Covid test for travel.

Being aware of Covid testing protocols is essential not only for Indians travelling abroad but also for others planning to travel to India. They need to bear in mind that India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued the latest COVID-19 travel guidelines. Presently, all international arrivals from China, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, and Japan must present a negative RT-PCR report from a test taken a maximum of 72-hours prior to travelling.

What Are the Different Types of Covid-19 Tests?

COVID-19 tests can detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus or antibodies produced after infection or vaccination. These tests vary in speed and accuracy and detect different parts of the virus to check whether a person is infected with any of the variants of Covid-19.

Understanding antigens and antibodies is essential before you can understand the modus-operandi of the different testing methods for Covid-19.

Antigens refer to the protein present on the outer shells of viruses. Whereas, antibodies against specific antigens protect us from infection. Now, keep in mind that an antibody test detects past infections based on the antibodies made by your body for protection against antigens. However, a diagnostic test detects current infections in your body. The two most prevalent Covid-19 testing methods are based on this premise.

The main COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) diagnostic tests are:

  • RT-PCR, NAAT, and LAMP tests (loop-mediated isothermal amplification test)
  • Anigetn test

What is the Major Distinction Between Rapid Antigen Test and RT-PCR?

Irrespective of the type of Covid-19 test chosen, the first few steps remain the same. The medical professional will collect a sample from the suspected COVID-19 carrier. A long, soft-ended swab is used to sample nasal and nasopharyngeal secretions. The RNAs from the person undergoing the test as well as the virus are contained in this sample.

Now, let us try understanding the points of difference between the RT PCR and Rapid Test: -


RT-PCR stands for a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and is widely regarded as the most reliable testing method based on its accuracy. If someone has COVID-19, this test is more likely to be positive and can also detect viruses after recovery.

The pathologist extracts host and virus RNAs from a person's secretions. Laboratory amplification and reverse transcriptase enzymes create virus RNAs. After collection of the genetic material, a fluorescent dye detects viruses. Fluorescent dye testing takes 8 hours.

Rapid Antigen Test

Antigen testing can be performed in a clinic, or a hospital or even at home. Rapid antigen tests are simple. They are like a pregnancy test kit which you can handle by yourself. However, before sampling, wash your hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser. After this, you can transfer the sample of the swab from the throat and nose to the storage tube or the test strip.

Rapid antigen tests detect Coronavirus depending on the protein on the outer surface. Test results take 15-30 minutes which makes it less time consuming as compared to RT-PCR. Antigen tests are also cheaper. So, they remain widely used even though they are not as accurate or sensitive as the RT-PCR. It can be used to confirm COVID-19 infection in people who have come in contact with other infected people.

Mass screening tests for SARS-CoV-2 infection in containment zones and hospitals use rapid antigen tests. It facilitates immediate infection prevention.

Also Read: Thyroid Function Tests: Procedure, Types, and Results

What Will be the Ideal Covid-19 Test?

Your travel destination's testing requirements are best found on a government website and can often give you a clear picture. Ideally, you should place your trust on your home country's embassy website for your destination country. Searching Google for "covid test to travel to X" usually yields these pages as search results.

Check with your airline, either by phone or online, for testing requirements. Airlines enforce testing requirements so they have accurate and current information. However, you should also consider checking airline information with a government source.

Most destinations require a recent test. This can be 24 hours (1 day) or 72 hours (3 days) or 168 hours (7 days). Please note that the window for time assessment begins when your test is collected, not when you get your results.

Understand that different destinations define the end time from which this window is calculated backwards. Your final flight to your destination usually departs at this time. Some destinations allow you to use the first connecting flight's boarding time.

Finally, some destinations define the testing window in calendar days rather than a set time. Crossing time zones can help or hurt because of this requirement. Your window will shrink if you connect at a forward-timed airport. Your window will expand if the connecting airport is slow in terms of standard time.

Getting Tested

Understanding your testing needs and clearly defining the following is the first step in creating a COVID testing plan for travel:

  • The right test for your travel destination
  • The required window's earliest testing date.
  • Availability of test results when you need.

After defining your testing needs, find a lab or testing centre to meet them.

Final Thoughts

Different COVID tests have specific pros and cons. The above information helps you choose the right test. RT-PCR tests provide greater accuracy but testing takes time. Rapid Antigen Testing is less accurate but provides results in minimal time. The fact of the matter is that everyone wants this pandemic to end and safety precautions like COVID testing are crucial. Leading service providers such as Anderson Diagnostics will provide you with your chosen Covid test for travel in Chennai. So, if you are planning to travel in the near future, get tested at the right time!

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