The Difference Between PCR, Antigen and Antibody 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.

 Travel Certificate      Previous Infection       Current Infection    'Test to Release'  
Rapid Antigen Test        ✓*            ✗                ✓             ✗                 
PCR Swab Test                   ✗                ✓             ✗                
IgG Antibody Test        ✗            ✓                ✗             ✗
PCR Day 5 - Test to Release         ✓            ✗                ✓             ✓
PCR Day 2 - Fully Vaccinated        ✗            ✗                ✓             ✓
PCR Day 2 & 8 - Non-Vaccinated        ✗                                     

*Some countries allow a Covid-19 Antigen test to gain entry. Please check with the FCO on the entry testing requirements of your destination.


New Rules for International Travel to England (from October 4th 2021)

From 4am Monday 4 October 2021, the rules for international travel to England will change from the red, amber, green traffic light system to a single red list of countries and simplified travel measures for arrivals from the rest of the world. The rules for travel from countries and territories not on the red list will depend on your vaccination status. Click here for more information


PCR Test

The PCR test involves taking a swab of the nose 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 carefully follow the swabbing instructions provided. This way, our laboratory 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 re-test.

Order your PCR Test here


Rapid 15 Minute Antigen Test

The Abbott Panbio Rapid Antigen 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.

Some countries also accept Antigen tests for travel, make sure you check with the FCO on the testing requirements for entry to your destination.

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 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.
  • If you are going to be allowed to travel to many restricted countries (always check the entry requirements for your destination).

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-19 test you need, please call 0207 183 3718 or email [email protected], and our friendly team will guide you through your options.

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