Covid-19 testing: can it help Christmas travel?
The Government has announced that from Dec 15 2020 quarantine self-isolation from high risk countries can be cut down from 14 days to five days if travellers produce a negative COVID-19 PCR test.
And prompt testing could give families peace of mind to mingle safely with their loved ones over the Christmas and New Year period.
With Christmas around the corner and during a difficult pandemic year, meeting loved ones can be a scary thought, but there are some key things to check off before you travel to meet loved ones or arrange a Christmas getaway in the sun.
Daniel Cheung, from Medix Pharmacy in Stevenage, offers his advice to make planning your trip abroad and to see family members during the upcoming festive period a bit safer for all the loved ones.
Q: Do I need to book a test before I fly or to meet a loved one?
A: Yes, you need to book a Covid-PCR (antigen) test before you travel but it is optional if you want to meet loved ones over Christmas; with unknown COVID status it would be safer to book a test prior to meeting your loved ones. For travelling abroad, a negative COVID-PCR test is definitely required for many countries of travel prior to boarding.
All our test results are lab-certified as most airlines require this. They use the COVID RT-PCR (Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction) method, which is the gold standard to testing for COVID. This is more sensitive than the other LAMP method. You may also need to produce a ‘Fit to fly’ certificate signed by a medical professional which we can also provide.
Airlines are advising not to use the NHS testing for travel and to advise booking a private one, so NHS testing can be reserved for those that genuinely ill and symptomatic.
Once we have your travel destination and flight details, we can book your appointment and ensure you have all the necessary travel documents.
Q: When should I book my test?
A: For travelling; we always advise to allow the maximum amount of time to be tested – this will ensure you have the documents you need in time for your flight. We can recommend the best time to book.
Our current turnaround time for COVID-19 PCR viral test results is 48 hours. However, if there’s a spike in the number of tests being done, this could delay things, so it’s best to be prepared.
Q: Should I also book an antibody test?
A: Whilst the antigen test will confirm if you currently have coronavirus, this can be done at the pharmacy or at home. An antibody test will confirm if you’ve had coronavirus at any time in the past or in the the early stages.
For antibody tests these must be done in the pharmacy by a trained professional and we currently offer two antibody tests; COVID IgM test (Roche Assay), which informs the patient if they are in the early stages of a COVID-19 infection, and this is used alongside the COVID-PCR test for travellers to China. In addition, there is the COVID-19 IgG test (Abbott’s Assay), which informs the person if they had COVID-19 previously.
Q: Will I need any other travel vaccines?
A: Possibly, depending on where you are going. We are a yellow fever centre and can also test for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Yellow Fever and more. When you call us to discuss your travel arrangements, we can book you in for any other relevant travel vaccines.
Q: What advice do you have for passengers preparing to travel?
A: Self-isolate after you’ve had the test until the day you travel. Stay up to date with all travel recommendations and Government advice. It’s important to be aware of the public health requirements of your destination country. Confirm your travel arrangements the day before you leave.
When arriving at the airport, use online check-in where possible to minimise face-to-face contact and pay close attention to social distancing measures and rules in place.
Q: When should I not travel?
A: Don’t travel if you’re currently experiencing any coronavirus symptoms – a high temperature, new contagious cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – or have done in the last week.
Cancel travel plans if a member of your household or support bubble has experienced symptoms in the last 14 days or if you’ve been advised to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace service.
Q: What will I need to do when I return to the UK?
A: The latest Government guidance from December 15 2020, is that if you’re returning from a high risk country you can cut your self-isolation period from 14 days to five days if you obtain a negative COVID PCR Test. This is welcomed by the travel industry and allows passengers to safely return back to work or to go and see their loved ones over the Christmas and New Year period.
I also recommend booking yourself in for a test or contacting us to send you a home antigen kit. This can make your return to work much easier and save you from worrying.
Q: How can I get in touch?
A: We’re now running a dedicated helpline to help make it easier to book your Covid-19 test.
Call us on 01438 940654, text us or WhatsApp us on 07307 023275 or 07716 479454 to book an appointment.