The swab sample taken in the lab is heated and cooled using special reagents to convert the virus's RNA into DNA, and then make millions of copies of the DNA, which allows for the identification of the organism. This process can take hours, requires sophisticated lab equipment and technicians, and is typically done one sample at a time,
In contrast, antigen tests — often referred to as rapid tests — work by mixing the sample with a solution that unleashes specific viral proteins. That combination is then applied to a paper strip that contains a bespoke antibody optimised to bind these proteins if they are present. Like a home pregnancy test the result is reflected as a band on the paper strip. The process doesn’t require a lab, and can be done in up to 30 minutes.
I would ask the lab to show you a sample of the document you would need to show at the airport that indicates that test is a PCR test.
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