Everything You Need to Know About COVID Testing for Travel to India from the USA

on June 5th, 2023
with 0 Comments
in Health Information and Tips

COVID-19 left a trail of death, and long-term health conditions still felt today. Fortunately, infection cases have drastically reduced, prompting the relaxation of restrictions required for international arrivals in most countries.

For instance, passengers traveling to India do not need to produce proof of vaccination or a negative test. However, all travelers must adhere to COVID instructions and surveillance measures when they arrive in India, which includes random sample testing.

Suppose you’re traveling for business or leisure and unknowingly test positive for COVID. Unfortunately, the Government of India may not allow you to go on with your plans freely without undergoing a mandatory self-isolation window.

With that in mind, obtaining a prior COVID test is recommended so you’re fully aware of your health condition before departure. If you plan to travel to India from the USA, consider undergoing a COVID test at a nearby, trusted urgent care center.


The Types of COVID Tests Accepted for Travel to India from the USA

Comparing Rapid PCR and PCR

Anyone planning to travel to India should preferably be fully vaccinated according to the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination guidelines. Otherwise, the Government of India guidelines for International arrivals apply.

According to a recent update issued in February 2023 by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, a section of international passengers will undergo random post-arrival testing at the airport upon arrival. If a traveler’s sample tests are positive, they shall be sent to the INSACOG laboratory network for further genomic testing.

Here are the three types of COVID-19 tests.

1 Antigen Test

Antigen tests establish the presence of antigens in the sample of a patient. An antigen is a biological or chemical substance that can trigger an immune response in the body. An antigen could be a virus, bacteria, toxin, or chemical substance outside the body.

The antigen in question could be the proteins in the virus SARS-Cov-2 that cause COVID-19. The sample is usually taken from a patient’s nose or throat. The antigen test will register a visual change if it detects the presence of an antigen.

In the case of international arrivals, the antigen test is used to screen patients with COVID-19 symptoms. They are preferred because they are simple and produce results within minutes. 

In an over-the-counter antigen test, a positive result will indicate a line on the test similar to a pregnancy test. 

When Can You Expect Your Results?

The turn-around time of an antigen test is faster than an antigen test— expect the results within 15-30 minutes.

Performance of Antigen Tests for COVID-19

Antigen tests have lower sensitivity and specificity compared to molecular tests. As a result, antigen tests are more likely to return a false negative, especially when testing is done before symptoms appear.

The accuracy of antigen tests depends on different circumstances—for instance, a high pretest probability. Pretest probability is the likelihood the patient being tested is already infected. Pretest probability increases when the person being tested has symptoms, was exposed to COVID-19, or lives in an area with a prevalence rate.

On the contrary, pretest probability reduces when the person doesn’t have symptoms, isn’t exposed to COVID-19, and lives in an area with low prevalence. 

Similarly, you can get a false negative if you take the antigen test soon after contracting the virus. Because antigen tests have low accuracy levels, a molecular test may be needed to confirm the results.


2 Molecular Test For COVID-19

A molecular test is the most effective way to diagnose patients exposed to the virus who have yet to display symptoms. Molecular testing evaluates genetic material called RNA associated with a specific health condition.

So, what is required to perform a molecular test?

Each test requires a material sample, e.g., blood, tumor through biopsy, bodily or amniotic fluids. For example, COVID-19 molecular tests look for traces of viral antigens in nasal or respiratory secretions.

Molecular testing in COVID-19 applies reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The test inspects the presence of SARS-Cov-2, which determines if a patient has COVID.

The Molecular PCR  test is more accurate than antigen tests that look for proteins in your immune system.

Here are the steps involved in the COVID-19 PCR test.

  • Sample Collection: A physician will use a swab to collect respiratory fluid found in your nose. A swab is a soft tip on a long but thin tube inside your nose. Even so, there are other swabs, for example, nasal swabs, that take a sample inside a nostril. There are also nasopharyngeal swabs that collect samples further into the nasal cavity. Once the sample is collected, the tube is sealed and sent to the lab for testing.
  • Extraction: After the laboratory technician receives the sample, they extract or isolate the genetic material.
  • PCR Testing: The testing process uses a set of unique chemicals and enzymes in a PCR machine called a thermal cycler. Each subsequent cycle of heating and cooling increases—amplifies— the quantity of genetic material in the test sample. After multiple cycles, it generates millions of copies of the SARS-Cov-2 virus found inside the test tube. If one of the chemicals inside the thermal cycler generates a fluorescent light, the COVID-19 virus is present. Ultimately, after several amplification cycles, the PCR machine detects the light signal. Scientists interpret the signal as a positive test result.

How to Interpret Molecular Test Results

  • Negative Test Result: A negative test result means you were not infected with the SARS-Cov-2 virus when your specimen was collected. Interestingly, it’s possible to have COVID-19, which was not detected by the test. A negative test possibly occurs when you’re infected but with no symptoms. It can also arise if you have COVID for over a week before being tested. A negative test doesn’t mean you’re safe for any period; if you’re exposed to the virus after the test, you can get infected.
  • Positive Test Result: A positive test result means you have an infection with the SARS-Cov-2 virus. You can either be symptomatic or asymptomatic, depending on the stage of the disease. Fortunately, people with mild COVID-19 symptoms can recover quickly at home without medical attention. Even so, contacting a healthcare provider is always advisable if your symptoms worsen.

 When Can You Expect Results?
Turn-around for molecular tests varies—you can get results within 15-45 minutes for RT-PCR devices. However, it can take 1-3 days if there is a need to take the samples to a laboratory.

Accuracy Levels for Molecular Tests

The molecular test is often considered the gold standard for diagnosing COVID-19. A study published in (the Cochrane Library) on the effectiveness of the molecular tests found 95.1% of instances of correct diagnosis of COVID-19.

Molecular test accuracy levels are enough to diagnose COVID-19 ruling out the need for a confirmatory test standard with antigen tests.

Even so, a molecular test can produce a false negative for the following reasons:

  • Sample-related errors: Improper sample collection, timing, transport, and processing can affect the test results.
  • Testing too early: It may take up to 5 days after exposure to the virus before the genetic material is detected. Therefore, a molecular test can generate a false negative in the first few days after exposure.
  • Testing too late: Traces of genetic material in the respiratory tract begin to decline one week after the illness. 

Antibody Test (Serology Test)

Antibody tests look for SARS-Cov-2 antibodies. The test involves collecting blood samples from the vein in your arm or through a fingerstick.

An antibody is a protein your immune system produces to fight off an invader like a virus. An antibody test cannot test for an active COVID-19 infection; however, it tests if you have the virus.

An antibody test can also detect antibodies associated with a vaccination. So, in addition to past infection, it also evaluates the immune response to vaccination. An antibody test is not recommended for an active infection because the body takes one to three weeks to develop antibodies.

However, it is recommended alongside viral testing for someone who comes in for treatment too late after the infection. It is also used in children to diagnose multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.

When Can You Expect Results?

You can get test results within the same day in some point-of-care facilities. However, if the sample is taken to a laboratory, it can take 1-3 days to get the results.

Accuracy Levels of COVID-19 Antibody Test

The accuracy levels of antibody tests improve with time. For example, you can get up to 30 % accuracy in the first week after symptoms develop, 70% in the second week, and 90% after 3 weeks.

Research suggests that it’s possible to find SARS-Cov-2 antibodies 5-7 weeks after recovering from a COVID-19 infection.

How to Schedule and Obtain a COVID Test Before Your Trip to India

Book Appointment Newport Urgent Care

Time is of the essence in any travel arrangement, especially when a flight is involved. It is best to obtain your COVID test at least 3 days before your scheduled flight. Remember, getting PCR or antibody test results takes up to 3 days.

It’s also important to factor in any delays in a health facility. 

Here are a few tips for scheduling and obtaining a COVID test.

Find an Urgent Care Center in the Locality

 You can obtain a COVID test at a local hospital, home, pharmacy, health clinic, or urgent care center. Even so, an urgent care center is the most suitable solution for its unique advantages. Most urgent care centers offer PCR testing, antibody tests, and rapid antigen tests.

Here’s why you should consider a COVID test from an urgent care center:

  • Accessibility: There are approximately 10,800 urgent care centers across the United States, with at least 500 clinics opening annually. You can therefore be sure to find an urgent care center in your locality, making it an accessible option.
  • Convenient Hours:  Urgent care centers are open when you need them. Unlike your regular doctor’s office, they’re available on weekends and nights. More importantly, you don’t need an appointment; you can simply walk in when your schedule allows.
  • They Are Affordable: Urgent care centers operate on a smaller scale than local hospitals. They, therefore, have fewer cost overheads making it possible to charge affordable rates.

Find More Information About the Urgent Care Center

The urgent care center should have the following related to the COVID test in print and published on a website:

  • The kind of tests provided in the urgent care center
  • The type of physicians and support staff who oversee the COVID-19 testing process
  • The cost of the COVID test— check whether you’ll need to pay other administration fees or a possibility of a further test, resulting in an additional charge.
  • Inquire about different ways to arrange an appointment— phone or online booking.
  • Find-out transport, directions, and parking information beforehand

Book a COVID Test Appointment

One obvious benefit of booking an appointment for your COVID test is the time factor. First, you’ll get preferential treatment in the queueing system. It can also help you plan your day better.

More importantly, you can schedule your COVID test according to your availability. Fortunately, you can book online or over the phone. If you’re new to the urgent care center, you might want to ask the following questions:

  • The total cost of your appointment
  • How long it takes to see a physician, and what is the estimated waiting time
  • The things you need to bring to your appointment, e.g., the Medicare cards
  • Whether you need to book a longer appointment
  • Booking your COVID test at a less busy time
  • How to activate reminders before your appointment

Prepare for Your Covid Test

Doing the test when prepared will make it a quick, easy, and seamless process. 

Here are a few tips to prepare for the test:

  • Learn the Different Covid Tests: A COVID-free certificate is issued based on the molecular PCR test. Therefore take time to learn about the different tests, an approach that will help you request the proper test for your travel needs.
  • Things to Carry to Your Test: You may need to carry a mask, driver’s license or relevant identification document, health insurance information, or something to keep you busy e,g, a book, water, or snacks if you’re expected to be in the line for a while.
  • Prepare for the Respective Test: You don’t need much preparation like all tests; come relaxed and mentally ready. In addition, wear suitable clothing that makes it easy to roll up your sleeve.

Attend Your Appointment

Attending your COVID test from a busy urgent care center can be overwhelming.

Consider the following tips:

  • Ask a friend or a family member to accompany you.
  • Wait outside and request the receptionist to text you on your turn if you feel uncomfortable inside.
  • Ask the support staff to help you complete the necessary forms for the appointment.

What to Expect During the COVID Testing Process and How to Interpret Results

What to Expect During the COVID Testing

A healthcare provider will collect a fluid sample from the respiratory tract by inserting a long nasal swab into your nostril. The intention is to extract fluid from the back of your nose. Alternatively, sample a physician can obtain using a shorter nasal swab—mid-turbinate swab or 

Anterior nares swab.

Still, a healthcare professional may obtain a fluid sample by inserting a long nasal swab at the back of the throat. There’s also the option to spit out into a tube to produce a saliva sample. Results may be available within minutes or between 1-3 days, depending on the type of test used.

Interpreting a Positive Result

A positive result means the virus was detected, and you already have an infection.

Take the following precautions:

  • Isolate and wear a high-quality mask to protect others around you from getting infected.
  • Notify people you recently had contact with that they may be exposed
  • Monitor your symptoms; in case of emergency symptoms like breathing difficulties, seek emergency care
  • Contact an urgent care center about your treatment options— commence treatment in the first few days for best results.

Interpreting a Negative Result

A negative result means the test did not detect the virus or an infection. It may not rule out an infection if you use an antigen test. 

Here’s what you need to know if you have symptoms:

  • You may still have COVID, which was not detected because of poor timing
  • You may have another viral infection
  • Take precautions to prevent spreading it to other people

If you do not have symptoms and you’ve not been exposed to the virus, resume your travel plans.

Important Considerations and Requirements for COVID Testing During Travel to India from the USA

When you obtain a COVID test, ensure you get it at a suitable time and choose the right type of test for your circumstance. 

Which Test Should I Get?

If you’ve not had COVID or tested positive for the last 90 days, you can use either an antigen or a PCR test. If you use an antigen test with the results turning out negative, you must repeat the test multiple times.

Testing is not recommended to detect a new infection if you’ve tested positive in the last 30 days and you’re not showing any new symptoms. 

Use an antigen test if you have tested positive in the last 30 days and have new COVID symptoms. If the test returns negative, repeat the test multiple times to confirm.

Use an antigen test if you have also tested positive in the last 31-90 days and have developed new symptoms. If the test returns negative, repeat the process several times.

If you test positive with an antigen or PCR test, you will continue to get positive results for several weeks up to 90 days. It is always advisable to speak to a healthcare provider about the suitable type of test.

When to Use a PCR Test or Antigen Test?¡

  • PCR Test: PCR test, also known as Nucleic Acid Amplification Test(NAAT), tries to detect viral genetic material which stays in the body for up to 90 days after infection. A PCR test should not be used to test an individual who has tested positive in the last 90 days. Re-infections can occur within 90 days, making it hard to detect whether it is a new infection.
  • Antigen Tests: Antigen tests detect viral antigens in a specimen is a relatively quick and straightforward process that gives results within 15-30 minutes. A positive antigen test indicates a current infection. Antigen tests have lower sensitivity than NAATs, so the FDA recommends that the test be retaken up to three times, each 48 hours apart, to confirm the negative result.

Critical Times to Get Tested For COVID

If you have COVID symptoms, test immediately. If you intend to use a single test, a PCR will give you a more reliable result. On the contrary, a negative antigen test will require additional testing to confirm the result.

If you don’t have symptoms but have been exposed to COVID, take the test at least 5 days after your exposure.  

Testing is always helpful before an event or visiting a high-risk area, even if you don’t have symptoms or haven’t been exposed to COVID.

Test as close as possible to the travel time (1-2 days) to help you make informed choices about your health and travel plans.

Essential Considerations for COVID Testing

As you obtain a COVID test, seek clear information on the following:

  • How the test will be performed
  • Who will pay for the test
  • How to interpret the results
  • Manufacturer, test name, and type of test
  • Performance and limitation specifications associated with the test
  • Actions needed after someone has returned a negative or positive result

Try Newport Urgent Care Center COVID Testing Services

Travel arrangements are always hectic— you’ve got a million things to do in under a week. More importantly, you must get your requirements right, including COVID-19 screening. It’s, therefore, essential to obtain a COVID test in a health facility that’s affordable, accessible, and offers quick service.

Newport Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine has a state-of-art laboratory and highly qualified physicians ready to assist you.

Contact us online or call us at 949.284.2813 to book an appointment.