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Our Laboratory is UKAS Accredited and can provide a fit to fly certificate confirming that you have a negative PCR Covid-19 test and are fit to fly.

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test for COVID-19

The only test that is widely used for patients, NHS staff and the wider community is the PCR Covid-19 test. It provides an accurate indication if you are currently infected with Covid-19 virus. No other test is widely used for this purpose.

Sample collection

Samples are collected by placing a swab into the nose and/or throat. The swab is then sent in a test tube to the lab to be analysed. Full details for sample collection are provided with the test.

Time taken for results of test

The test takes between 12 and 24 hours to return a result from receipt of sample at our laboratory. The PCR Covid-19 test confirms if the virus is currently present in the body. The Covid-19 virus genetic material is only present in very small amounts in the swab but the test starts a chain reaction to produce multiple copies of the Covid-19 virus genetic material which can be easily detected by the test to confirm the presence of the Covid-19 virus in the swab.

Is the NHS test acceptable for travel?

COVID-19 testing for the purposes of international travel is not available on the NHS. Pre-travel COVID-19 tests is only available in the private sector.

Guidance on testing in the UK nations is available from the following websites:

Recommendation for all travellers

Before planning and/or booking international travel you should do all of the following:
  • Check the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) website for country specific Travel Advisory Notices regarding travel and entry restrictions, and review the local medical care available at your destination;
  • Click the ‘Alerts’ link on the fitfortravel country pages for details of your risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) in each country.
  • Consider physical distancing and hygiene measures. For further information please read the COVID-19 Health Considerations for Travel page; and
  • Check the GOV.UK Border Control website before both your outbound and inbound journeys for any self-isolation (quarantine) rules you must follow on return to the UK.
  • When to take the test before travel

    In general, the tests need to be processed between three and five days before the flight departure but please confirm the details required by your specific destination. You can read the most up-to-date guidance on the Foreign Office website here.

    Please note: We can take no responsibility for any delay resulting from the postage service. Our laboratory is operational 24 hrs a day 7 days a week. Therefore your test is analysed immediately on receipt at our laboratory and the result is available within 24 hrs of receipt of the test.


    Please consult the latest Foreign Office guidance on the suitability of this test for your destination. Due to the constantly changing global environment and entry requirements, Expert Medicals is unable to provide specific guidance on whether our PCR Covid-19 test is suitable for your destination. All purchases are at your own risk.

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