Know before you go: pre-flight testing requirements

Written by Kelsey Drummond

September 10, 2020

Health | Travel

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, travel is going to look a little different for the foreseeable future. This doesn’t mean you can’t travel at all – it might just require a bit of extra planning before you depart. COVID-19 tests have quickly become a standard requirement for crossing international borders. Here’s what you need to know about these tests and requirements for your trip.

What you need to know about COVID-19 tests

There are two different COVID-19 tests and it’s important to know the difference. Most travellers need to know about the diagnostic test, which lets you know whether you have an active case of COVID-19. These tests can be broken down into a molecular test (RT-PCR) or an antigen test, which are usually rapid diagnostic tests. The second type of test is an antibody test, which shows whether your body created antibodies to respond to the presence of COVID-19 in your system. It does not determine whether you have the virus at that moment.

Active cases

         To determine if you have an active case of COVID-19, expect a nasal or throat swab. While a saliva test has been developed, it hasn’t been as widely adopted as the nasal or throat swab test. It could take up to a week to receive your results, but many locations can offer same-day results or results within 48 hours. The molecular test is highly accurate and rarely needs to be repeated. The antigen test can be highly accurate, but negative test results may be retested using a molecular test to be safe. This is common if you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 but the test result is negative.

Past Cases

         The antibody test that determines whether you have had COVID-19 in the past is done through a blood test. Results are often ready the same day, but could take up to 3 days to obtain. This test is accurate, but a second test may be conducted to ensure accuracy. While it won’t tell you whether you are currently infected with COVID-19, these tests can provide insight into how the virus spreads and whether individuals can develop immunity to the virus. Many destinations will not accept an antibody test as proof that you are COVID-19 negative.

Why does this matter?

         Many countries and airlines are requiring proof of a COVID-19 negative test prior to travel to slow the spread of the virus. Depending on the airline or destination, they may require that you take this test within a certain window of time before departing for your destination. To find a COVID-19 testing centre near you, contact your local health authority. Certain destinations may only accept RT-PCR tests, while others may accept rapid diagnostic tests. Your destination may require you to complete a test upon arrival, go into quarantine, or have accommodations ready upon your arrival. 


Instead of trying to track down all of this information yourself (while also planning for your trip), you can just download the Sitata app. The app will send you alerts that include information on entry requirements; like when to take a certain test and what quarantine measures to expect when you arrive. These real-time notifications are created with the most up-to-date information available, making them accurate and reliable.

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