COVID-19 travel tips
A traveller arrives at Heathrow Airport in London. (Photo: AP)

Travellers boarding international flights from Jamaica to the US, Canada, and the UK, must now show proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter. Different countries have different requirements on what type of testing is permitted, and what the quarantine protocols are, if any, upon entry. Here are answers to questions you may have:

What are the different typesof COVID-19 tests?

There are two types of diagnostic COVID-19 tests — the PCR and the antigen (or rapid test). These tests have varying degrees of accuracy and reliability, and can be used to achieve different aims. There's also an antibody test which identifies people who have previously been infected. The antibody test does not show whether a person is currently infected, but it is an effective way to track community spread.

What are the differences between the PCR and the antigen tests?

The PCR test is designed to detect whether you have the infection now, and the antigen test is designed to screen people to identify those who may need a more definitive test. In the case of PCR, the sample is sent to a lab and can take hours to process on the machine. The results are read by a DNA Analyst and are almost 100 per cent accurate in spotting infected people when the virus is present on the swab.

In contrast, antigen tests don't require a lab and can be done in 15-30 minutes. Although these tests are reliable when an individual has a high viral load, they are far more likely to produce false-negative results if a person has low amounts of the virus in their body.

What are the similarities?

Both tests require a swab from the back of your nose or throat as a sample, and cannot determine whether you are contagious if positive.

What kind of COVID-19 test is considered acceptable for travellers?

Travellers bound for the United States must have a negative PCR or antigen test. For Canada and the UK, only the PCR test is accepted. The antibody test is not accepted for international travel.

How far in advance can I get tested before entering the country?

The testing time frame is no more than three days before your flight. A long layover before arriving at your final destination could impact the testing window, so be sure to double check your arrival time, or you might be required to take another test in order to board the aircraft.

Does my child need to be tested?

Depending on the age of your child, he or she may or may not be required to undergo COVID-19 testing in order to travel. For Canada, children four years old and under do not need a negative test to land. For the US, travellers under two are exempt, and for the UK, travellers under 11 may be exempt from taking the test. Be sure to check the COVID-19 testing requirements of your final destination.

Will home test kits be accepted?

Samples collected using home test kits will not be accepted.

How can I find a local testing site?

The Government of Jamaica has approved a number of local private laboratories to conduct COVID-19 testing on the island. MDLink has been approved by the Ministry of Health to offer COVID-19 testing, and this can be done via our concierge service. That means you can book and pay for your appointment online at, and our team will come to you to administer the test. Your antigen test results will be delivered in 15 minutes, and your PCR results in 24-72 hours (depending on the date you select). You'll receive an official report via e-mail with your test results, which you can show at the airport for travel.

My test result came back positive. Now what?

In the unfortunate event that you've tested positive, you should self-isolate, contact a physician and delay your travel plans until you recover from COVID-19. MDLink provides a free telehealth consultation with a registered doctor for positive cases, and your results are reported to the Ministry of Health.

What are other countries doing?

International travel is increasingly restricted — other countries are warning against non-essential travel, and even closing their borders due to the new variant of COVID-19. Travel restrictions are changing rapidly, and should you choose to travel, please be aware that you may remain abroad longer than expected.

Dr Ché Bowen is founder & CEO of MDLink Ltd.

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