What is a PCR test?

Getting tested for COVID-19 is the first step in getting back to any normality. Ensuring you’re free of the virus can ensure you’re ready to travel again and see loved ones and much-loved vacation spots.

However, how do you know which sort of COVID-19 test will be best for your travel needs? All of the acronyms can be confusing, and you may feel lost trying to determine what you need to meet the travel requirements of different jurisdictions. This is especially important should you need specific types of documentation for flying or international travel. You can check here for the latest testing requirements required by the country you plan to travel to.

We’re here to help. Today we will discuss the finer points of what a PCR test is (and is for) and quell any misunderstandings about the PCR Test. This test, heralded as the “gold standard” of any COVID-19 test, consistently delivers accurate and reliable test results.

How Does PCR Testing Work? 

A PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test detects the presence of the COVID-19 virus in your body. It can also detect fragments of the virus even after you are no longer infected.

Our test is carried out by collecting a sample from the inside of your nose or throat. Some tests use a sample from inside your nostril, but in other cases, a longer swap is needed to collect a sample from further into the nasal cavity, throat, or from a saliva sample given directly into a cup.

The sample then is sent to a laboratory technologist who uses a process called extraction. This process isolates any genetic material in the sample, including the genetic material of the virus.

The actual PCR step is then performed. In this step, special chemicals are added to a machine called a thermal cycler, and a chain reaction is started that makes several million copies of a small portion of the COVID-19 virus’ genetic material. One of the chemicals used is photoreactive, and produces a fluorescent light as a signal if a positive result has been detected by the machine, indicating that SARS-CoV-2 is present. Software is then used to analyze and interpret the results.

Will I Get Accurate Results? 

The PCR test is the most reliable and accurate test available for COVID-19. Many airlines require you to have a PCR test if you want to travel as it is near perfect in giving accurate results.

The real question is as to why this test is so accurate. The reason being is that this test looks at whether or not genetic pieces of the virus are present. The antigen test, for example, only looks for antigens present on the surface of the virus and may not give wholly accurate results if it’s taken more than a few days after the start of any symptoms.

For this reason, many people who get a negative antigen test but experience symptoms of COVID-19 may be asked to get a PCR test.

How Do I Interpret My Results? 

The two keywords you’ll need to keep in mind are “positive” and “negative.” A positive test result indicates that it’s very likely you have COVID-19. This means you’ll want to isolate yourself from family members and friends to contain the spread of the virus and remain at home.

A positive result may not mean you’re contagious, though. The test can detect pieces of the virus even after you’ve recovered and are no longer at risk of spreading the disease to others. So if you’ve had COVID-19 recently, you’ll likely test as positive, even if you’re no longer actively sick.

A negative result means the opposite —  you likely aren’t sick with COVID-19. However, you could have been infected with the virus just before or just after your test. A negative test doesn’t mean you’re suddenly immune —  it just means that you were not infected with the virus at the exact moment of your test.

At MSI Clinics, we offer a 3hr fit to fly PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which is conducted via a quick, painless nose and throat swab. Our trained healthcare professionals will collect your sample, which will then immediately get sent to the lab for testing. This test will detect all COVID-19 variants. You’ll have the results in under 3 hours. If your results show no sign of the virus, you’ll receive a Fit to Fly certificate.

How Can I Book A COVID-19 PCR Test? 

Anyone with any symptoms indicative of COVID-19 should book a test here. The same goes for if you were exposed to or potentially exposed to someone who has tested positive. With how unpredictable and severe the virus can be, it’s always best to be cautious.

At MSI Clinics, we always offer walk-in appointments to help give you some peace of mind, as long as you are not displaying symptoms you can book an appointment. This is especially helpful if you’re looking to obtain a fit-to-fly certificate. In addition, our certificates are signed by your doctor, allowing you to travel with ease.

We’re committed to helping our clients get where they want to go. We’re a UKAS accredited, government listed private Covid-19 test provider helping you and your family get the tests you need to holiday once again. And don’t worry about the weekends- we’re available seven days a week.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment, or stop by for a walk-in appointment.

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