Testing for Covid-19
Many countries are requesting those entering from abroad have an up-to-date Covid-19 test (PCR - see below) that demonstrates travellers do not have the illness.
The Exeter and Barnstaple Travel Clinics are now able to provide this test. We are also able to provide the antibody test (see below) that can let you know if you have had the virus.
HOWEVER - some important points to understand.
PCR Tests for travel
- PCR swab tests have a poor sensitivity, meaning they do not always pick up Covid-19. Therefore you could have Covid-19 even with a negative PCR swab.
- You could still contract Covid-19 between having the PCR test and arriving in the country you are travelling to
- PCR tests have a minimum 2-3 day turn around time, meaning this needs to be coordinated with your departure. This does not factor in postage times. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the results will be back within 72-hours
In short, a letter showing you have had a negative Covid-19 PCR test may get you through customs, but does not guarantee you are healthy.
PCR test price: £120
Antibody tests are less useful for travel and also not without their flaws.
- A positive Covid-19 antibody test confirms with accuracy that you have had the virus
- However, a negative antibody test
- does not mean you have not had the virus
- does not mean you are immune
- does not mean you cannot carry the virus.
This is because when individuals get Covid-19, they respond in two ways:
- Develop antibodies to kill the virus (lymphoid response)
- Attack the virus directly (myeloid response)
If your body leans more on the myeloid response, you will kill the disease but not develop enough antibodies for them to be picked up when testing. This means, despite the test possibly giving you a sense of reassurance, your behaviour, social distancing and adherence to Government guidelines should not change.
Antibody test price: £50
- We can provide tests for Covid-19 for travel purposes
- Despite being MRHA recognised, there is still a risk of false negative results
- A positive antibody test does not mean you are immune
- A negative test does not mean you have not had Covid-19
PCR Tests - Do I have the virus?
This is achieved by swabbing the nose and throat and sending the sample off for a Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. This test multiplies any virus DNA to a point where it can be measured. These are not always accurate and can be difficult to obtain properly.
Antibody tests - Have I had the virus?
This is achieved by taking a sample of blood and testing it for two kinds of virus antibodies (also called immunoglobulins (Ig)). Antibodies are 'Y' shaped proteins that the body makes when it comes into contact with a disease. These are created to help destroy the virus. There are two types we look for when assessing if the body. Immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies are produced within the first few days of an infection, then disappear. Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies take longer to produce but are responsible for helping the body remember what the disease looks like. This test is more accurate after 14-days of being exposed to the virus.
Which tests are recognised by the Medicines Health Regulatory Authority
At the time of writing, only two manufactures have ANTIBODY tests officially recognised in the UK (Abbott and Roche). However, there are strict guidelines as to how these tests should be carried out and there is currently no 'home test kit'. Some private companies such as Superdrug, were selling one of these test kits until the manufacturers highlighted they were not designed for this use https://bit.ly/3crT8EE. The Government has since released guidelines on this issue: https://bit.ly/2AuvzxS
Covid-19 tests with a 'CE' mark - what does this mean?
A CE mark has nothing to do with how effective the test is, purely that the manufacture has made the test in accordance with EU manufacturing standards