Coronavirus Pandemic

Antigen and PCR Covid-19 tests: What's the difference?

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai Filed on August 7, 2021

The RT-PCR test is considered the standard for diagnosing Covid-19 in the UAE.

The UAE on August 3 announced a string of exemptions applicable to travellers from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Nigeria and Uganda who wish to enter the country. General passenger travel from these countries remains restricted.

Expats with valid residency visas who have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine in the UAE are among the new categories that will be allowed to travel to the UAE from August 5.

Additionally, a slew of PCR testing requirements were also announced. These included producing a negative PCR test result within 48 hours from the date of departure. The test must have been taken at an accredited laboratory and the result must have a QR code. They must also get a PCR test done after arrival, followed by two others on day four and eight.

Undergoing a rapid Covid test before boarding a plane is one of the requirements for stranded UAE residents to return from six countries, including India and Pakistan.

Difference between Antigen and PCR tests

>> The antigen test detects the presence of antibodies that are produced by Covid-19.

A nasal swab sample is collected and labelled with a dye. Then, infections can be determined within 20 minutes.

>> The RT-PCR test is considered the standard for diagnosing Covid-19 in the UAE and other parts of the world. Conducted by testing a nasal swab, this method is a real-time assessment to detect the SARS-CoV-2 genetic material or RNA from a person’s upper and lower respiratory specimens.

Rapid molecular assays are a new type of molecular influenza diagnostic test to detect influenza viral RNA or nucleic acids in the upper respiratory tract specimens in approximately 15 to 30 minutes. One platform uses isothermal nucleic acid amplification and has high sensitivity and yields results in 15 minutes or less. Other platforms use RT-PCR and produce results in approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

(Source: CDC, UAE government)


Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for over ten years. For Khaleej Times, she covers NRI affairs, civil aviation, and immigration issues among other things. She completed her BA in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008 and is currently pursuing her MA in Leadership and Innovation in Contemporary Media at the American University in Dubai. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves food, and is mom to an over-enthusiastic Labrador retriever. Tweet at her @shootsprintrite.

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