PCR test: how to book a Covid test for travel near me, can I get one at Boots - and how much do they cost?
People returning to Scotland from green list countries need to get a private PCR test two days after they return, while those coming from amber list countries are required to take a test on day two and day eight unless they are fully vaccinated
Sun, sea and sand is on the cards for Scots this summer, as people have been jetting away for international holidays under the travel traffic light system.
Holidaymakers are able to visit a small number of green list countries without quarantine on return to Scottish soil.
And from Monday 19 July fully jabbed adults arriving from amber list destinations have no longer needed to self-isolate on their return thanks to a rule change brought in by the Scottish Government.
Yet passengers returning from international destinations - even those deemed as low-risk – still need to pay for and take PCR Covid tests when they return.
Here’s everything you need to know about PCR testing for travel.
What is a PCR test?
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are one of the main ways that people are being tested for Covid in the UK.
They are used to detect the genetic code of the virus - the RNA - by directly finding the presence of an antigen.
RNA is present in the body before antibodies can form.
By detecting viral RNA, PCR tests are able to signal whether or not someone is infected with coronavirus early on, even before symptoms start.
They can detect very small amounts of RNA, meaning they are extremely sensitive and the best test to indicate current infection.
PCR tests are carried out using nasal and throat swab samples.
This type of test was introduced in the UK last year, with the hope of identifying people who are infected so they can isolate and prevent the virus from spreading to others.
PCR testing also allows public health officials to get a clear picture of the prevalence of Covid within a population.
How long does it take for PCR results to come back?
Carrying out PCR testing can be very labour intensive and time consuming as there are several stages.
After the swabs are taken, these are then sent to a lab meaning you need to wait until the results come back.
Most people receive their results the next day, but it could take up to three days.
You’ll usually get a text or email with your result when it’s ready.
Do I need to book a PCR test for travel?
The number and type of test you need to get for travelling depends on the country you are visiting, with each destination having its own requirements for entry.
Most places now need you to have a negative Covid test taken usually within 72 hours before departure, and you will need to present your result before boarding the plane.
Many countries need it to be a PCR test, but some will accept a negative lateral flow test for entry.
Then, rules for returning to the UK vary depending on whether the country you are coming back from is on the green, amber or red list.
Green list countries require one PCR test within two days of arriving back in the UK.
Amber countries need a pre-booked package of two PCR tests to be taken on days two and eight after you get back, as well as quarantining for 10 days at home if you are unvaccinated.
Fully vaccinated adults now do not have to self-isolate when they return to Scotland from amber list countries, but they are still required to take a test three days before returning and a PCR test on or before day two.
However, they are no longer be required to take a day eight test.
Essentially, for fully vaccinated travellers, the requirements for green and amber list countries are the same.
Meanwhile, if you’re coming from a red list country you need a pre-booked mandatory 11-night quarantine hotel package which includes two PCR tests taken on day two and day eight of your return.
You need to use a testing facility on the government’s list of providers that meet the minimum requirements.
How can I book a PCR test near me?
Boots has launched a PRC self-test package for £85 for those travelling abroad.
The at-home PCR testing package can be purchased on Boots.com and delivered to your home the next day – or alternatively it’s also available at over 500 Boots stores.
The retailer also offers an in-store PCR testing service for £99, which is now available at over 200 stores in the UK and offers results within 48 hours.
Meanwhile, its Rapid Antigen Testing Service costs £79.99 and gives same-day results from more than 15 stores.
You can also find walk-in services at most airports for a bit cheaper. For example, Edinburgh Airport is offering drive-in and walk-in tests for customers within its departures area.
PCR tests cost £99 per person for the general public, and these can be booked in advance. Results should come within 48 hours.
But you must ensure when booking that the test complies with the requirements for the country you’re going on holiday to.
Meanwhile, there are other testing rules when travelling back to Scotland.
You will need to buy a Covid test and take this in the three days before you travel. The type of test you need is detailed here.
You are not able to use NHS tests for the purpose of pre-departure testing before travelling to Scotland, meaning you can’t take an NHS test on holiday with you to use before you come back.
The foreign travel advice pages on the UK Government website tell you where you can buy Covid tests in the country you’re travelling from.
Meanwhile, you must also book and pay for a Covid test taken within two days of arriving back to Scotland. You can only book this day two test using the CTM Booking Portal.
How much does a PCR test cost?
Holidaymakers flying in from foreign places have to take tests at their own expense.
In Scotland, day two PCR tests cost £88 if you are fully vaccinated and returning from a green or amber list country.
Those who are not fully vaccinated and returning from an amber list country need to book and pay £170 for a day two and day eight Covid test.