Features

Which Covid-19 tests allow you to travel?

1 May 2020 by Hannah Brandler
heathrow testing

Countries around the world are relying on Covid-19 testing programmes to reopen travel.

While some countries are removing the need to provide a Covid-19 test if you have been vaccinated, there are many of us who will have to wait a long time before we have received both doses of the vaccine.

So which test do you have to take for which country? You’ll find some answers here, as well as links to useful resources where you can find further information. We will keep this updated to correspond to the latest travel restrictions.

PCR test

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is the most widely accepted form of testing. It identifies if the virus is currently in your body by detecting the genetic material in the virus (known as RNA) through a swab sample from your nose or throat, which is then sent to a lab and is analysed by scientists to provide a positive or negative result.

PCR tests can take a few days to return a result, and many countries advise that you take the test no more than 72 hours before arrival.

Here are the countries that require proof of a negative PCR test when travelling from the UK. Countries on the UK’s ‘red list’ are not listed.

  • Abu Dhabi
  • Austria
  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Armenia
  • Aruba
  • Barbados
  • Belgium
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Cambodia
  • Greece
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Dubai
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Estonia
  • Ghana
  • Grenada
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Jordan
  • Lebanon
  • Lithuania
  • Maldives
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • St Lucia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine

Additional tests and quarantine may be required at the destination. Check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website for up-to-date entry requirements for more destinations. Note that there are also many countries that are not currently accepting travellers from the UK.

LAMP test

Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) is a rapid version of the PCR test, which again uses a swab sample from the nose or throat.

Results can be achieved within a couple of hours because the samples do not require alternating temperature cycles but instead a constant temperature.

The good news: the samples can be analysed on-site rather than sent to a lab.

The bad news: the tests are considered less accurate than a PCR test.

Collinson and Swissport are currently carrying out LAMP tests at Heathrow Terminals 2 and 5 and processing them on-site.

At present the LAMP test only provides entry to:

  • El Salvador
  • Spain (also accepts a TMA (Transcription-Mediated Amplification) swab test)
Collinson-Covid-Testing-ASC_3220

Antigen test

These tests also require a swab sample from the nose and/or throat and detect proteins which are specific to coronavirus.

The good news: it’s far quicker than the PCR test, returning results within 15-30 minutes and samples do not have to be sent to a lab.

The bad news: you guessed it. They are considered less accurate and may provide false negatives.

Countries that accept antigen tests include:

  • Austria
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Lithuania

Self-sampling

The at-home tests require people to collect saliva in a sample pot and send it off to a lab. These are largely not accepted for travel as the result may be inaccurate if the sample is not taken properly.

Antibody test

This test detects the presence of antibodies in the blood, which (if present) suggests that you may have been previously exposed to or infected with the virus. The test involves a blood sample from a finger prick test or standard blood test.

As stated by the FCO, “it is not clear if being infected in the past means a person is immune and they cannot get infected with coronavirus again in the future. It is also not clear if they can pass the virus onto others.”

The test cannot detect if you are currently infected with coronavirus – it can take 1-3 weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies.

For this reason, it is not accepted by countries as proof that you are not infected with the virus.

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