Testing for COVID-19 – what you need to know
PUBLISHED: 14:15 02 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:04 13 October 2020
There are many tests for coronavirus available in the UK, but which ones are most accurate?
We spoke to Daniel, Pharmacist at Medix Pharmacy in Stevenage, to learn all about the types of COVID-19 tests and why you may need to take them.
Q: What tests are available?
A: There are two kinds of tests you can take for coronavirus: viral (antigen) tests and antibody tests. The viral test (or PCR antigen test) checks whether the patient has COVID-19 at the time of testing. The antibody test is used to determine whether you have contracted the virus in the past.
Q: Why would I need to take the viral or antibody test?
A: You may need to take the viral test if you are experiencing symptoms of the virus – a high temperature, new continuous cough, or loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – if you have to quarantine for any reason (after being on holiday or being exposed to someone with symptoms), or if you wish to fly abroad. Some countries require you to get tested between seventy-two and ninety-six hours before your flight – you will have to upload a copy of your lab report online to prove that you’re safe to enter the country.
If you had symptoms or had been in contact with someone that had COVID-19, the antibody test will confirm if you have antibodies against the virus.
Q: Are they accurate?
A: There are a lot of inaccurate tests available at the moment, so it’s important to make sure that the test you use is MHRA approved.
We use the largest, UKAS registered laboratory in the country, and they use the MRHA approved Abbott’s method to test for the antibodies or virus.
The Abbot’s method test specificity (ability to correctly identify those with the virus or antibodies) is 100pc and the sensitivity (ability to correctly identify those without) is 97.5pc, so it’s incredibly accurate, unlike some of the rapid test kits that are readily available online.
Q: How are the tests taken?
A: The PCR/antigen test can be delivered to your home, or you can be tested in the pharmacy. It involves swabbing the inside of the mouth and nose, and then sending the sample to the laboratory to be analysed.
The antibody test has to be carried out in the pharmacy by a trained professional. A vial of venous blood is taken from the patient, and this sample also gets sent to the laboratory for testing.
For both tests, the results normally come back within two working days, depending on how busy the laboratory is.
Q: How much does it cost to take these tests?
A: We are charging £80 for an antibody test and £170 for the viral test. We are the only pharmacy in Stevenage, and possibly Hertfordshire, that offers this test on a private basis as an added service from the clinic that was established nearly seven years ago.
Q: How can I get tested?
A: If you want to get tested to see if you currently have coronavirus (antigen test) you will need to either order a home kit from us, or this can be done in the pharmacy. Please contact the pharmacy to discuss if you wish to take the test before flying as different airlines will have different requirements. With our experience and relationship with the laboratory, we will accommodate you as best we can.
To find out whether you’ve had coronavirus in the past (antibody test) there is no need to make an appointment. Visit us at the pharmacy during opening hours and we’ll be able to carry out the test on that day.
Visit Medix Pharmacy at 84 High Street, Stevenage, Herts, SG1 3DW
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