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Can the NHS antigen tests be used for travel?

Rapid Antigen tests may be used in lieu of PCR tests for travel. However, there are certain circumstances that allow this.

The NHS provides two different testing services related to COVID-19:

  • PCR tests
  • Rapid Lateral Flow tests (also referred to as Antigen or Rapid Antigen tests)

As part of the government’s efforts to curb the spread of the virus, both tests are free. However, each test has a distinct purpose.

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The polymerase chain reaction tests or PCR tests are meant to be used when an individual has come down with COVID-19 symptoms. In order to confirm an infection, the symptomatic person’s samples are collected and sent to the laboratory for analysis. Based on the result received, their quarantine status is decided.

Get the free PCR tests provided by the NHS

On the other hand, the Lateral Flow tests are meant to be used by people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19. The NHS recommends the use of Lateral Flow tests every three to four days (at least twice a week). According to official data, a third of the people who are infected are without symptoms and equally capable of spreading the virus.

Unlike the PCR tests, Rapid Antigen tests can be performed at home using a pregnancy test-like device. The results are produced within minutes of swab sample collection.

Regardless of the test one uses, if the result is positive for COVID-19, they must enter mandatory quarantine.

Learn about how to get the NHS Rapid Lateral Flow tests

Concerning foreign travel, many countries, including the UK, now accept Antigen test results as a means of pre-departure COVID-19 infection screening.

Before you begin getting ready to travel, you must do the following:

  • Check if you need a COVID-19 test result to enter your destination country
  • Find out which test is accepted at the border of that country
  • Be aware of how soon before departure the COVID-19 test must be taken

You can find information regarding the entry requirements of foreign countries on the government’s foreign travel advice page.

While their tests are free to use, the NHS does not provide Antigen tests nor PCR tests for foreign travel purposes.

According to VIVO Clinic’s market research, 40% of people thinks that ‘tests from NHS drive-through sites are suitable’.

According to the NHS Fit for Travel page, ‘COVID-19 testing for the purposes of international travel is not available on the NHS. Testing for this reason is only available through private providers who must have self-declared that they meet the UK government’s minimum standards for the type of commercial COVID-19 testing service they offer.’

 

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