PCR tests are inconvenient (and expensive) because they have to be processed overnight at a laboratory. However, Qured is selling do-it-yourself rapid antigen Covid tests for travellers, which provide results in minutes. Jenny Southan reports
The thing with rapid antigen (aka lateral flow) tests for travel is that they are not always accepted at the border so you have to check in advance if the country you are going to will accept them upon entry. My parents and brother needed to travel from the UK to France, which does accept rapid antigen tests, so I suggested they try Qured (you can’t use the free rapid antigen tests from the NHS).
Ordering the “Fit to Fly” tests from the Qured website is relatively straight-forward but for anyone who struggles with technology, they will need help with the overall process as a video call with a health professional will be required later on.
Unlike the PCR tests, which can easily be over £100 each, Qured rapid antigen tests are £39, which is more reasonable. Rapid antigen tests are also less stressful for pre-departure use as the results are revealed on the spot so you don’t have to worry about lab or postal delays.
For entry to France (and most other countries that accept them) the test has to have taken place within 48 hours of departure.
It’s important to note that you need to book before 1.30pm for same-day postal dispatch or 6pm for Qured’s next-day courier service (free with DPD). A priority courier service is also available (at a fee) but it’s best to order the kit in advance so you are not worrying about receiving it in time for your departure.
Once you have purchased it, Qured will send a link to schedule a video call with one of its health advisors. You need to make sure you arrange the consultation within the correct timeframe to have your test accepted. You will also need to create a profile and “activate” the kit in advance through your profile.
My parents were booked to travel on the Tuesday and received the tests through the post on the Friday before. They were anxious about the process as they were worried that if anything went wrong or they got a positive result or the kit failed in some way, that they would have to rush to Gatwick airport to get an express test and pay more money.
However, I reassured them and they booked their video call for the Monday as advised. They each had a seperate call booked but when my father logged on for his call first, the health advisor said he could do everyone’s tests at the same time. My family were full of praise for the man, who was reassuring, professional and also had a good sense of humour.
My mother was really nervous about having to do the nasal swab, having had a bad experience in France where the clinician pushed the swab right to the back of her nasal passage through both nostrils and it was incredibly uncomfortable, but this health advisor said that wasn’t necessary.All three people unpacked their kits and got the bio samples as instructed – apparently the health advisor asked them quiz questions to lighten the mood and make it fun. Once they swizzled the swab in their nose, they had to dip it into a vial of solution, squeeze off the residue and then pour the liquid onto the plastic test “cassette” (pictured above).
They also needed to have their passports to hand to prove their identity. (My father said that there was an instructional video on the Qured website but this wasn’t the same as what they experienced so the company should update it.)
The next part sounds complicated but apparently the process was smooth. After 15 to 20 minutes the results were ready to view. Users then have to place the cassette on a clear, flat surface and write the time and date they took the test clearly on the case with a biro.
They then have to place their photo ID next to the test cassette and take a clear picture of the test and passport. (You need to ensure that the lines on your test cassette are visible and that your photo ID is free of glare.)
You then have to send the photo via email to firstname.lastname@example.org – with the subject line including
“LFD”, your full name and the time written on your cassette. This has to be done no more than 30 minutes after your appointment for them to verify your results.
Not long after submitting the photos, my family received acknowledgement emails followed by another email with the verified results. The accompanying certificates then needed to be downloaded from their Qured account profiles and printed out.
Verdict: Ordering and taking a rapid antigen test is certainly a lot of hassle compared to travel pre-pandemic but my family were very pleased with the efficiency of the process compared to postal PCR tests. And there was no problem with them being accepted at the border when entering France.