Welcome to Covid Vancouver Travel
Pre-departure Covid-19 Testing for Travelers
There are three types of COVID-19 tests currently available:
A viral PCR (NAAT) Test
PCR which stand for Polymerase Chain Reaction, is a laboratory test that detects genetic
material of the COVID-19 virus collected from the respiratory material found in
your nose. The test detects the presence of the virus if you are infected at
the time of the test and could also detect fragments of virus even after you
are no longer infected. This is the test that travelers are increasingly needing evidence of
a negative viral test result (usually taken within 3 calendar days prior to
travel) before boarding an airplane or entering most countries (currently 170 countries
Please note that for the purpose of COVID-19 testing, PCR is the same as NAAT (Nucleic
Acid Amplification Test).
An Antigen Test for COVID-19
Similar to a PCR test, the antigen tests detect the presence of a specific viral
antigen which implies current viral infection. However, a negative antigen test
is not accepted by most countries and airlines as these tests are not as accurate
and sensitive as the PCR test. Although antigen testing may be more readily
available, only PCR test results are accepted by most countries. A few countries
are now accepting antigen test results as well. For accurate information,
please call our office at 604.704.4216 or email us at
Some countries such as Netherland may require a rapid antigen test in addition to a
negative PCR test prior to arrival.
Please note that most antigen tests are point-of-care and are rapid tests. The results
are usually determined within 15 minutes.
An Antibody (IgM serology) Test for Previous Infection using a Blood Sample
This is a serology test that detects the presence of antibodies, which are the natural
immune system defensive protein particles the body produces to fight against a
virus. This test shows whether you have had an infection in the past or not.
This type of test is less useful for diagnosing a present disease as it may
take some time for the body to produce enough antibodies to show if an individual
is infected. Some countries such as China require an antibody ( IgM ) test in
addition to a negative PCR test.
Non-testing options for travel
There are no non-testing options for travelers travelling to countries that require a negative PCR test result.
Sample collection is done using a flexible stick to collect respiratory material found in the nasal cavity. The swab is placed and sealed inside a tube and is sent to LifeLabs laboratory which is the only accredited laboratory found in British Columbia.
When LifeLabs laboratory receives the sample, they perform a process called extraction, which isolate the genetic material from the rest of the sample.
Once the genetic material of the virus is isolated, millions of copies of the genetic material of COVID-19 is produced using a PCR machine and several chemicals. If the SARS-CoV-2 is present in the sample, one of the chemicals produces a fluorescent light. This fluorescent light is a signal that virus is presence in the sample.
Accuracy of PCR test for COVID-19
While COVID-19 PCR (NAAT) test is not fully accurate, it is the most reliable and
accurate COVID-19 test available (>99%). A positive test result means that you are
likely have been infected with COVID-19 virus. In such a case, you will be
contacted by one of our staff immediately. You must cancel your flight
immediately, isolate at home and follow the directions given by our staff and
the local health unit.
One of the downsides of the PCR test is that it might provide a false positive result
if you are infected in the past distant and no longer contagious. This happens
because the test is able to detect even a small residual fragment of the virus
after you have full recovered.
A negative test result means that the individual is probably not infected at the
time he/she was tested. However, it is possible that the individual just
recently contracted the virus, but there is not enough virus in the body to be
When should you do the test for the purpose of travel:
In most cases, you need to do the test 48-72 hours prior to your flight. We do recommend
that you call us at least four days before to book an appointment in order to book
the appropriate time and date.
Minimum age for the PCR test
While there is no strict minimum age, our clinic performs the PCR nasal swab only for
individual 2 years of age or older.
Before and after the test activities
There are no limitations or activity restrictions in regards prior or after doing the testing.
When to expect results
Although we cannot guarantee, we are currently receiving the lab results within 24 hours after your test. We usually email the lab results and doctors letter to the email provided. You can also pick up a hardcopy at our clinic.
Walk-in testing at our clinic
While we do provide walk-in testing, we recommend that you call us prior to coming in as we are very busy and want to minimize contact inside the building.