Whether upcoming travel is for relaxation, business, or a combination of both, testing for COVID-19 is likely an integral part of the trip, especially when traveling by air. There are often very specific requirements on the type of test that will be accepted, and patients may be turning to their healthcare providers for advice. In this article, we provide links to relevant resources and a quick explanation of what qualifies as a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) COVID-19 test for travel purposes to help you provide your patients with effective advice.
A PCR test vs a NAAT COVID-19 test for travel—what’s the difference?
One question the Talis team frequently hears is if the Talis One™ COVID-19 Test System, which has been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA),† can be used for travel testing. Patients have often heard the term “PCR” test when most of the time any NAAT will work. Consequently, many worry that if they don’t get a PCR test, the test won’t be valid as they are trying to board a domestic or an international flight.
The technology in the Talis One COVID-19 Test System is a specific NAAT that falls under the category of isothermal amplification techniques. You can learn more about our technology here, but briefly, our tests use real-time loop-mediated isothermal amplification (rtLAMP) for DNA targets and real-time reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (rtRT-LAMP) for RNA targets. This approach is recognized as a NAAT technology that is used for SARS-CoV-2 testing by the CDC.1
Additional resources on COVID-19 testing for travel that your patients may want
One of the biggest challenges with knowing which tests are valid is understanding the different jurisdictions and where to look for more information. Here are a few tips that your patients may find useful:
For international travel, look for information based on your destination.
Each country has their own rules about what is required for travel into the country, with a variety of mask mandates and acceptable tests which may vary based on vaccine status. For travel from the United States to other countries, the State Department has a page on their website where you can look up country-specific COVID-19 information.
For travel into the United States from a foreign country, all air passengers regardless of nationality or vaccination status, are required to show documentation of a negative Covid-19 viral test result taken within one day before travel, or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days, before they board their flight.
Effective January 22, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHC) requires non-U.S. individuals who are traveling for both essential and non-essential reasons and are seeking to enter the United States via land ports of entry (POE) and ferry terminals at the U.S-Mexico and U.S-Canada borders, to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise nationwide. This restriction does not apply to U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, or U.S. nationals. Learn more about land travel requirements from DHS.
For travel within the United States, also look for information based on your destination.
While at the time of writing this article, most states are fully open and do not require COVID-19 testing for the fully vaccinated, the emergence of variants and local surges can alter conditions rapidly. One place to look for information at the state level is at each state’s health department. You can find links to each states, cities, and county health departments on the CDC’s website.
Note that some counties and cities may have more stringent requirements than the state they are in, so be sure to check those public health departments as well.
The emergence of viral variants and local COVID-19 surges can alter conditions quickly, so we recommend regular review of the relevant websites before and during travel.
New developments at Talis: Adding to our COVID-19 testing options, we now distribute the GenBody COVID-19 Antigen Test, a lateral flow test that delivers results in 15 minutes and can meet requirements for COVID-19 testing for travel if a lateral flow antigen test is accepted.