Published September 23, 2021 by Ichor Blood Services
COVID-19 Testing: What Are The Available COVID-19 Test Types?

Even as the Canadian population is becoming increasingly vaccinated, COVID-19 tests do not seem to be going away anytime soon. This is especially true for international travel, as some countries still mandate government-approved testing regardless of the traveller’s vaccination status. 

If you are planning to go out of the country for the first time in the past 2 years, you may be confused about the various travel testing requirements in place. Multiple COVID-19 tests exist, and it is not uncommon for countries to accept one test but not the others. Canada, for instance, only allows travellers with a negative polymerase chain reaction test or a proof of recovery to enter; Canadian travellers without these requirements are constitutionally allowed to return, they could be subject to fines in the process.

The lesson is clear: learn about the COVID-19 tests available and know which test you will need if you plan to travel. Make sure that the COVID-19 test you will take is accepted in both your destination country and your home country. 

Ichor Blood Services offers all popular COVID-19 tests in Canada, including polymerase chain reaction tests, antigen tests, and antibody tests. Visit our rapid testing locations in Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Vaughan, ON, and Fredericton, NB, to get your test results in time for your voyage.

COVID-19 Testing: PCR, Antigen, And Antibody Tests Explained 

Canadians have access to 3 COVID-19 tests: polymerase chain reaction (PCR), antigen, and antibody tests. These are not interchangeable. 

If you are travelling from Canada, confirm which COVID-19 tests are accepted by your destination country. Additionally, note that Canada only accepts PCR tests or proof of recovery upon entry; you could be fined up to $5,000 if you return to home soil with the wrong test. 

PCR Tests 

PCR tests look in your upper respiratory system for traces of genetic material of SARS-CoV-2. They are widely regarded as the gold standard when it comes to detecting COVID-19. Given their superior accuracy and reliability in comparison to other COVID-19 tests, every country recognizes PCR tests upon entry. 

PCR tests are administered via a swab in the nose or throat. The swab is then taken to a lab for analysis. This process can take days. However, many private labs guarantee a turnaround time of under 3 days, which is usually sufficient to beat the 72-hours testing window mandated by most international airlines. 

A major weakness of PCR tests is that they only detect active infections. The test could miss people who have been exposed to COVID-19 but have yet to develop an infection. 

Antigen Tests

Rather than looking for genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 like PCR tests do, antigen tests look for proteins or other molecules on the surface of the virus. 

As a result, antigen tests are generally only as accurate when the viral load is high. When the infection is minor, antigen tests have a higher chance of producing false negatives than PCR tests. 

The upside is that the swab for antigen tests can be analyzed on the spot. Turnaround times are usually within 15 to 30 minutes. 

Because antigen tests are less accurate than PCR tests, not all countries accept them upon entry. Canada, for instance, rejects or fines travellers who have taken an antigen test instead of a PCR test.

Other countries that reject antigen tests include China, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Countries that accept antigen tests upon entry include Germany, France, Italy, UK, and the US.

Antibody Tests

Antibody tests look for antibodies that have developed in your body as a result of fighting off a COVID-19 infection. A positive antibody test signifies that you have recovered from the virus. It is a proof of recovery. 

Because the vast majority of people who recover from a COVID-19 infection develop immunity to the virus, proof of recovery can sometimes substitute for other tests. Countries that accept antibody tests upon entry include Brazil, France, Germany, and the US. 

Canada also accepts antibody tests taken between 14 to 180 days before the inbound flight. You would need to take a PCR test if your antibody test falls outside of this timeframe. 

Of course, antibody tests are not a viable testing option for you if you have never developed a COVID-19 infection in the first place. In that case, you should look into PCR and antigen tests for your travel testing options. 

Research Your COVID-19 Tests Before You Get Tested 

Learning about COVID-19 tests can get overwhelming, but the process is well worth it if you plan to travel in the future. 

A short summary on COVID-19 tests:

  • PCR tests are the most accurate and are recognized everywhere. You cannot go wrong with a PCR test. 
  • Antigen tests are less accurate than PCR tests. As such, not every country recognizes antigen tests upon entry. 
  • Many countries recognize antibody tests upon entry, but this option is only available to travellers who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection. 

Make sure to verify which COVID-19 tests are accepted by your destination country before booking your flight. 

Get your COVID-19 test today at an Ichor Blood Services lab. Our labs in Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Vaughan, ON, and Fredericton, NB, all offer rapid-return PCR, antigen, and antibody tests. We even offer virtual testing options so you can be tested wherever you are. All our tests are designed to beat the 72-hours travel testing window. Call us at 1-844-424-6728 or fill out the online contact form for testing at Ichor Blood Services. 

FAQs

Q: How much are antigen tests at an Ichor Blood Services lab?
A: Our 15-minute return antigen tests are $75. 

Q: How much are PCR tests at an Ichor Blood Services lab?
A: Our 72-hour return PCR tests are $150. 

Q: How much are antibody tests at an Ichor Blood Services lab?
A: Our 72-hour return PCR + antibody combo tests are $200.

Contact Us for Physician Requisitioned General Blood Work, or Corporate Group Testing for the COVID-19 Antibody or COVID-19 Active PCR Test, or for Travel Testing Test Collection Services for the COVID-19 Antibody or Active PCR Test.

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