People who test positive for Covid-19 with a lateral flow test no longer need to take a PCR test to confirm their coronavirus status.
This change came after the rise of Omicron in December cases saw a high number of positive lateral flow tests and Brits struggling to access PCRs.
However, this is causing some confusion for travel that requires a negative test or proof that you are currently Covid free.
When individuals take a PCR test they can still show a positive result test up to 90 days of having it. Previously, they could show their original PCR test result as proof of the earlier infection – and their current safety to travel.
But as PCR tests are no longer required at the moment of initial infection, how do you prove you’ve already had and got over Covid when you need to?
What are the rules around PCR and travel?
Boris Johnson has removed pre-departure Covid tests and requirements for PCR tests for those who are fully-vaccinated or under 18 on the UK side.
However, Covid restrictions on point on entry abroad will differ depending on which country you’re travelling to. Some countries require you to have a negative PCR test no longer than 72 hours before arrival or a vaccine certificate. Other countries will require you to take a PCR test before leaving the country.
How long after Covid will you rest positive on a PCR?
A PCR tests identifies the presence of coronavirus genetic material in a sample but doesn’t show if someone is currently infectious. A person who has tasted positive for Covid-19 can still produce a positive test within 90 days.
A lateral flow test measures if antigens are present in a sample. They will only show a positive result when a sizeable amount of the virus is present.
So, what does this mean for travel?
Laura Jackson from ABTA says the first thing we should do before travelling is check the entry requirements on the UK government website.
“Some countries will say, regardless of your vaccination status, that you need to show proof of a PCR test whereas others could ask for lateral flow,” she says.
“For fully vaccinated travellers, generally there’s more likelihood that you won’t need to take test or that the testing requirements will be reduced in some way.”
Jackson continues: “Some destinations will accept proof of recovery for entry and that’s probably a better option for someone who is unvaccinated than fully vaccinated, because if you’re fully vaccinated, people most likely be able to use your proof of vaccination rather than proof of recovery.”
Do you need Covid travel insurance?
“It’s important to take out travel insurance as there are policies that will cover you if you test positive,” says Jackson.
“If you’re looking for insurance through a travel agent, be very specific about the company. Some companies either have their own policy that specifically covers coronavirus, or they’ll they’ll have arrangements already with different companies that do transfers that they happy to advise you to book with.”
Can you travel without a PCR test?
Jackson says it depends on individual circumstances, “so, where you want to go and whether or not you’re fully vaccinated. But there are scenarios where that is possible. If you’re fully vaccinated, you can go to Spain [just] with proof of vaccination but these entry points do change.”
As she stresses: “Every country has set out its own requirements, and they are subject to change depending on what’s happening, either here or there.”