For those who must travel, or those who are itching to do so, airlines and airports are increasingly offering ways to get tested for the coronavirus ahead of a trip. Taking a test can assure you and others that you aren’t spreading the virus geographically.
In recent weeks, some destinations, like Hawaii, New York, Washington and some Caribbean countries began allowing people who have tested negative for the virus and can show test results to skip mandatory 14-day quarantines, a process that some view as risky because it is possible that people can take a test, receive a negative result and then contract the virus later.
People who have a trip coming up should get a coronavirus test before they travel, experts say. Figuring out the exact time can be tricky, but you can’t wait too long to take the test because you may not get the results back in time to go on your trip.
For those reasons, many destinations, including France, Aruba, Bonaire, Puerto Rico and Hawaii, require that the test be taken within 72 hours of departure. Abu Dhabi and Croatia require test results within 48 hours of departure. Some airlines, like Egypt Air, allow travelers to use results from a test taken up to 96 hours before traveling, depending on where they are traveling from and to.
There are two categories of tests: virus tests, which help determine if a person has the coronavirus, and antibody tests, which detect if a person has an immune response because of past exposure to the virus.
Those who want to find out if they currently have the virus should plan on taking a polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., test. P.C.R. tests are considered the gold standard because of their accuracy and reliability.
Another type of diagnostic test is an antigen test, which detects the presence of a specific viral antigen or bits of coronavirus proteins, implying current viral infection. For antigen tests, a sample is collected by nasal swabbing, with hopes that there are some virus proteins in the sample.
There are antibody tests, too, but those are not what people need in order to travel. The presence of antibodies indicates only whether people were previously infected with the coronavirus, not their current infection status, though reinfections are exceedingly rare.
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