What is Covid-19 PCR Test? Test to Fly? Test to Release? Or Test at Home?

Posted by Danielle Phillips-Green on 10th May 2021

As we are nearing the end of the national lockdown here in the UK, a new ‘wave’ of guidelines will surely be following. You may have heard the media discussing passports for travel, or talks of ‘no vaccine, no holiday’ and whilst the exact specifications are yet to be determined, one thing is for sure at this stage... you will be required (at least) to evidence a negative covid result to be able to travel to some countries outside of the UK and to return home.

In this article we will be discussing the PCR test, where and how you can take one, what it means for you, providing some insight into ‘test to release’ and ‘test to fly’.

What is a (Covid-19) PCR test?

A PCR test is used to determine if a virus is present. The scientific name for this test is a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. This type of test has been more recently used to detect the coronavirus, determining if the test user is infected at the time of administration. It is extremely sensitive which means it will detect the virus in your nose or throat even if the virus’s presence is small. The PCR test has been particularly useful in attempts to eliminate Covid-19 because it identifies spread trends, areas of higher infection rates and of course provide the user with highly accurate results to enable them to act if their result is positive.

Why should you get tested?

Whilst the PCR’s capabilities speak for themselves, often, many people still question why there is still a requirement for it if we are nearing the end of the UK Covid restrictions. Arguably, you could throw caution to the wind and just assume any symptoms are a common cold or a lengthy hangover, but the reality is, ‘to be forewarned, is to be forearmed’.

As previously stated, the PCR test equips scientists with information. This information is used to support scientists in the fight against the Coronavirus. Testing detects infection rates, regions and ethnicities more affected by the virus and ultimately, provides us with the knowledge required to stop the virus before it gets out of hand again. On a more personal note, in performing the PCR test, you can act based on the results you are presented with. If you receive a positive reading you can self-isolate, stopping the virus from spreading further and impacting the people you care about. Businesses can utilize this type of test to ensure their staff are safe whilst continuing with their duties and some semblance of normal working life.

Symptoms that could be caused by the coronavirus are:

  • Fever or chills
  • New, Continuous cough
  • Fatigue
  • Loss or change of taste or smell
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

We still firmly advocate testing because it works.

If you reflect on the last year of the global pandemic when there was no testing or understanding of the virus, scaremongering ensued and life as we knew it simply stopped. In the light of mass testing, we are on the road to recovery; we have the knowledge we need to ‘stop the spread’ whilst not ‘stopping’ life.

When considering how the PCR test may determine our ability to resume life after Covid, it has been widely publicised that obtaining a negative result will be a necessary measure for people to be able to travel again.

This is where PCR testing to fly comes in, the necessity for taking a test will be there should you wish to travel out of the UK and certainly when returning…a very real incentive for taking a Covid-19 PCR test. The PCR test provides us with the much-needed hope for returning to life as we knew it before Covid.

PCR tests are entirely accurate, so you can be confident that your results are correct when you decide to consider travelling again. What makes the PCR a more reliable test over others is how it is performed...

How does the Covid-19 PCR (Swab) Test work?

The PCR (Swab) test for Covid-19 involves a 3-step process.

The first step requires the user to collect a sample from the nose using a swab. The swab is very much like a cotton bud but has a flexible tip enabling the user to reach deep inside the nose. After a sample has been taken, the user must immediately place the swab inside a tube to be sent for testing. Users must take care to avoid the end of the swab touching any other surface or their hands to avoid cross-contamination and a false reading.

At the second step, The swab sample will be sent to a laboratory, where an expert technologist will extract material from the sample to determine if a virus is present.

Lastly, at the third step, the Covid-19 PCR (Swab) test requires specific chemicals and a PCR machine to detect any viruses found on the sample. This is then read by special software to determine the final test result.

The PCR (Swab) test is often the favoured option over the home testing lateral flow kits. The reason for this is because it’s performed by highly skilled scientific experts, with the support of innovative technology.

The efficiency of the Coronavirus home test kit is regularly queried because anyone can perform them, whether professional or not. What also holds the Covid- 19 PCR test in high regard over the lateral flow tests are its sensitivity and accuracy. The PCR test can determine results from even the smallest viral particle.

Once your result is determined, you will receive a positive or negative result via email. Depending on which option you have requested and your result, a certificate of your negative test will also be sent directly to you.

When should I take a PCR test, how will it benefit me and what are my options?

If you are lucky enough to travel this year and/or are considering a holiday or family visit outside of the UK, you will have to take a PCR test to be able to do so. An initial negative test result will be required to leave the UK to travel to certain countries. The exact destination list is currently being determined but it is still better to have a Covid-19 PCR test prior to flying, even if just to ensure you are fully prepared for your trip.

PCR ‘Test to Release’:

The other instance you will require a PCR test is for ‘test-to-release’. Under current UK Government guidelines, you are required to self-quarantine for 10 days upon return from your travels. However, if you are unable to do this due to work or life commitments, there is another option available, the PCR test. Users can take a PCR test no earlier than 5 days upon their return to the UK and if you test negative after this time, you can resume your ‘normal’ life. (During the 5 days you will be expected to quarantine).

This is of course an entirely voluntary scheme introduced by the Government and if you don’t wish to take a PCR test, you can simply self-isolate for 10 days after your trip.

If you would like to take the PCR test option, you will need to register with a Government approved test provider prior to your return to the UK, where you will be asked to provide your personal details. You can still opt in on your return but there will be further expectations required, as an example, your trip details and passenger information.

All procedures are carried out by the independent provider, including delivery of your test and a certificate of your results. Each member of your travelling party will need to pay to receive one and you will have to pay before you receive your test pack.

PCR ‘Test to Fly’:

For the test-to-fly, the procedures are the same. There are various external agencies that provide this facility; however, they must be Government approved or your results and certificate will simply be discarded.

The benefits of using an external agency to provide your results for flying in and out of the UK are their legitimacy. You can be assured your PCR test results are entirely accurate, provided you’ve administered the sample swab correctly. You will also receive a Government approved fit to fly certificate detailing your test results, ensuring your travel plans remain uninterrupted.

Whether it’s test-to-fly or a test-to-release, the results of your tests will impact your plans in similar ways. If you receive a positive covid result prior to travel, you will not be able to continue with your plans and will have to self-isolate. If you receive one upon arrival to the UK you will also have to self-isolate for 10 days, pending when your symptoms started. You will be expected to notify all people and businesses you have been in contact with, providing the details of your trip, symptom start date and any other passengers within your travel party. Some countries are also taking covid tests upon arrival, a test to fly or a test to release certificate will remove this hassle, delivering a smoother arrival or return.

The certificate provides you with peace of mind and is a cost-effective method of ensuring your plans continue. Many people have taken holidays and been randomly tested upon arrival to another country and have had to detour to quarantine locations. Many other cases have involved plans being completely cancelled, costing travellers thousands of in-flight changes, hotel costs and most insurers won’t cover this at all. We reiterate, ‘to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

PCR ‘Covid home tests’:

If you are concerned you or your family have contracted coronavirus, you can receive a home test and perform the test yourself, receiving immediate PCR test results in the comfort of your own home. This Coronavirus Home test kit will provide you with results for personal care. This type of test, however, will not be enough to evidence your ability to travel out of or return to the UK, you will require a certificate, which is only acquired through the ‘test-to-fly’ and ‘test-to-release’ route.

* Please note that this PCR Covid-19 Home Test is not a rapid test. You could take it at home but the results will not be shown immediately.

How much does Covid-19 PCR Test Kit Cost?

The prices for tests will vary with different agencies, as well as what benefits their test packages provide. At Excalibur, we apply expert scientific knowledge to superior customer care, ensuring your customer experience is like no other.

Our prices are competitive and whether it’s a home test, test to fly or test to release, you can be assured your Covid-19 PCR test results are accurate and the customer care and support you’ll receive outstanding. Prices are £119 and depending on which test option you require; you will receive a certificate or email confirmation of your results.

Whatever your travel intentions are in the next few months, planning for each eventuality will ensure your breakaway is enjoyable and stress-free.

In choosing to opt for a PCR test in advance of your trip, you’ll be prepared for the ‘worst-case’ scenario. The PCR Is the most accurate test for Coronavirus currently available, as well as the only test recognised as a route to travelling abroad.

Over the last 18 months, what has become increasingly apparent is the constant need for accurate, expert information. Testing is no different. The more accurate testing available, the more we learn about the coronavirus and how to prevent its spread.

Whether you are hoping to travel this year, or simply want to protect yourself and your family, testing ensures this is possible.

If you would like more information about our Test to release, Test to fly or home test facilities, please contact our support staff who would welcome the opportunity to discuss your options with you.


1. The media states there are new variants of Covid, what are they and do the tests cover them too?

Most Viruses tend to mutate and evolve depending on their environment and their make-up. Every year a new strain of flu hits us and Coronavirus is no different. Over time, the virus has mutated, changing its qualities so it can ‘survive’. In turn, this makes it more difficult to detect, with several types of variants occurring at the same time.

In the media there have been terms like ‘UK variant, ‘Brazilian variant etc and they are merely just the names given the virus based upon where they were first identified.

With regards to testing, our standards and markers for virus examination are regularly cross-referenced against international virus databases, meaning you can be confident you are receiving the most comprehensive, accurate test for all currently known variants currently of COVID.