With the holidays approaching, many of us are considering traveling. People are wondering if they should go visit their families or friends in the coming weeks. With hundreds of millions of vaccines under distribution, the need for COVID-19 testing is changing in America.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who have been vaccinated completely are free to travel. They don’t need to get the test done before or after flying unless their destination demands it. However, Americans traveling abroad have to provide negative COVID-19 testing for travel to the airline flying home.
Is All Covid-19 Testing for Travel the Same?
No, there are two groups of coronavirus testing. First, we have the antibody tests, which look for evidence of past infection. They detect if you have immunity from your previous exposure to the virus. Hence, antibody tests cannot tell if you currently have the virus. As a result, these aren’t very useful for planning to travel.
The second group of tests confirms if you have the coronavirus. There are two further types of these viral tests: rapid antigen tests and T-PCR tests. These tests help diagnose the virus and help prevent its spread. PCR tests require a swab in the black of your throat or nose. In addition, these tests are reliable and accurate for detecting active infection.
It is a highly sensitive test that targets the genetic material of the virus. Antigen test is another diagnostic testing procedure that detects the presence of viral coronavirus antigen. For an antigen test, the medical professional collects a sample by nasal swabbing. Furthermore, you may have heard of antibody tests, but these aren’t the ones you need for traveling.
An antibody test is used to check for previous infections with the coronavirus. Many countries are also offering rapid antigen testing where you can get the results in a few minutes. These tests have minimal accuracy, but they are quick and affordable. You can check if your destination and airlines allow the results of a rapid antigen test.
How Do I Know Which Covid-19 Testing for Travel to Take?
Most destinations and airlines accept the PCR tests, although some others may also be allowed. If you and your family are taking the test, particularly for traveling purposes, check if your destination has a list of tests it is accepting.
Many places, such as New York, Washington D.C., Caribbean countries, and Hawaii, clarify which tests they accept. If you take a test that your destination doesn’t approve of, you might have to quarantine upon arrival. In addition, the airline might stop you from boarding the flight in the first place.
Timing Is Important for Covid-19 Testing for Travel
No matter which viral test you take, the results are valid only for the moment when you get the test. A test that comes out negative doesn’t protect you from contracting the virus in the future. However, when it comes to coronavirus, even a negative result doesn’t prove that you haven’t been exposed to the virus.
The period between getting in contact with the virus and starting to shed infectious virus varies in the range of 2 to 14 days. Therefore, it is possible that you contract the infection today, get a negative test tomorrow, and become infectious after a few days. Moreover, you can also spread the virus before you start developing any symptoms – that is when you are asymptomatic.
Therefore, timing is of paramount importance when it comes to COVID-19 testing. You must take the testing at a suitable time before your trip. Knowing the exact time can be challenging, but you cannot wait for too long as the results might not get back in time for your trip.
Many destinations, such as Hawaii, France, Puerto Rico, Bonaire, and Aruba, need you to take the test within 72 hours of your departure. Croatia and Abu Dhabi need test results that are within 48 hours of departure. Certain airlines, like Egypt Air, allow for test results within 96 hours before departure, depending on where they are flying to and from.
Where To Find a Coronavirus Test Before (Or after) You Travel
Many places are offering COVID-19 testing, including pharmacies, most hospitals, urgent care centers, fire stations, airports, and travel clinics. Potential travelers must get in touch with their primary care provider, who might know the best testing options for them.
Other options may include looking at the state and city health departments to find resources for testing. If you are traveling abroad, go through the U.S. Embassy website of the country you are visiting to find relevant testing information.
You always have the option of walking into a testing site. However, healthcare professionals advise that you book an appointment instead of waiting last minute for your test. If you cannot access a walk-in testing site, you can also order the test to your home.
Many services provide an at-home swab collection kit for people who are 18 or older. The charges for a coronavirus test vary according to the site and if the traveler has medical insurance.
Should You Get Tested Before, During, Or After the Trip
If you haven’t gotten the vaccination yet, getting the test done before your trip will prevent the spread of the virus. Pre-travel testing reduces the chances of allowing COVID-19 infected individuals on the flight and other public transportation.
Getting the coronavirus test after or during the trip could also help prevent the spread of disease at home or while you are traveling. The coronavirus task force of your state might recommend a post-arrival test. These tests can stop people from spreading infection at their destination.
In the end, you are not alone in this. Maintaining health is a collective effort, and it needs a single infected individual to cause an outbreak. Thus, discuss the precautions openly with people you are traveling to and possible social distancing upon your arrival. Use the accurate information, maintain isolation, and use the COVID-19 testing wisely.