The Difference Between PCR Tests, Antigen and Antibody (IgG/IgM) Tests

Testing Options

Not sure which coronavirus test you need? We’ve summed up all of your options below so you can easily choose the best test for you.

 Fit To Fly CertificateChecks For Past InfectionChecks For Current Infection'Test to Release' Qualified
Coronavirus Rapid 15 Minute Antigen Test        ✗*            ✗                ✓             ✗                 
Coronavirus PCR Swab Test                    ✗                ✓             ✗                
IgG Antibody Test        ✗            ✓                ✗             ✗
PCR Swab & IgM Antibody Combination                    ✗                ✓             ✗
PCR Test to Release Swab Test        ✗            ✗                ✓             ✓
PCR Day 2 & 8 International Arrival Test        ✗                                              

*Some countries allow a covid antigen test to gain entry. Please check with the FCO on the entry testing requirements of your destination.

UK Government 'Traffic Light' Travel System

On May 17th 2021, the UK Government introduced a new ‘traffic light’ system—ranking each country according to the rules you must follow when returning to the UK.

As this system determines the type of test you need for travel, have a look a quick guide on this system below:

Passenger Locator Form                                     ✓                 
Pre-departure Test (PCR or Antigen)                                     ✓                 
Self-Isolation                  ✗           For 10 Days               N/A
Test to Release (Optional)                N/A            On Day 5                    
Additional PCR Testing                  ✗          On Day 2 & 8        On Day 2 & 8†
Hotel Quarantine                                               For 10 Days

To see the full list of countries under the traffic light travel system, please click here.

†Your Day 2 & 8 PCR package for quarantine should be included with your purchased hotel quarantine package.


PCR Test

The PCR test involves a swab of the nose and mouth to detect the presence of viral coronavirus RNA.

It is considered the gold standard of coronavirus testing, as they are 100% sensitive in detecting the virus in a sample—even after levels have dropped below infectious levels. This is why many countries and airlines require foreign travellers to take a PCR test.

Though a PCR swab test is 100% sensitive, this is reliant on the quality of the sample taken. So if you plan on taking one of our at-home PCR test kits, please follow the swabbing instructions provided. This way, our lab can test the most accurate sample that you can provide.

PCR test results are usually delivered the day after we receive your sample, unless your sample requires a retest.

Order your PCR Test here


Rapid 15 Minute Antigen Test

The Abbott Panbio Antigen Rapid Test involves a swab of the nose and detects infectious coronavirus protein fragments.

It is ideal for quickly determining if you are at risk of spreading the virus, as it is 98.2% sensitive in detecting viral levels that are currently considered to be infectious (Ct values < 33). This is why rapid antigen tests are commonly used in workplaces and film studios, as it can detect whether anyone can unknowingly spread COVID-19 to someone else.

Rapid antigen test results are usually delivered within 15 minutes.

Order your Rapid Antigen Test here


IgG Quantitative Antibody Test

The IgG Quantitative Antibody Test involves a venous or finger-prick blood sample and detects the number of IgG antibodies—produced in response to being exposed to coronavirus. This latest CE marked test is 99.4% sensitive and 99.5% specific in picking up the virus if taken 15 days after exposure.

The IgG antibody tests results are usually delivered within 1-2 days after we receive your sample unless the sample requires a retest.

Order your IgG Quantitative Test here


In Summary:

If you want to know: 

  • If you are carrying the virus in your nose and throat at any level.
  • If you are going to be allowed to travel to many restricted countries.

Then it is the PCR test which you should take.

If you want to know: 

  • If you or your team are infectious right now.
  • If you need results quickly.

Then it is the Abbott Panbio Antigen Rapid Test that you need.

If you want to know:

  • If the fever and/or illness you had greater than 14 days ago—and months later—was likely to be COVID-19.

Then it is the IgG Quantitative Antibody Test you need.


If you have any questions or are still unsure about which covid test you need, please call 0207 183 3718 or email, and our friendly team will guide you through your options.

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