• COVID-19 testing

COVID-19 Testing at Boots

Explore the range of private COVID-19 testing services. These include tests suitable for travel. Please note our private testing services are not suitable for anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, or anyone who thinks they may have COVID-19

Our COVID-19 testing services are not suitable for anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 or anyone who thinks they may have COVID-19, which includes being a close contact. Please don’t book an appointment or come into store if you, anyone in your household or support bubble have symptoms of COVID-19, or you are classed as a close contact. Instead, please stay at home and follow the latest government guidance.

The services are also not suitable if you’ve recently arrived into Ireland from a country where the advice is to self-isolate. Where this applies, you must follow the latest government advice on travel into Ireland.

What is a PCR test & what does it do?

A COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test checks to see if the COVID-19 virus is currently in your body. It works by detecting the genetic material in the virus called RNA. When your swab sample reaches the lab, a solution known as a ‘reagent’ is added to it. If the virus is in the sample, the reagent starts a ‘chain reaction’. This reaction creates billions of copies of the viral genetic material, so there’s enough for it to be detected and analysed by scientists.

What is a Rapid Antigen test & what does it do?

Antigens are proteins found on the surface of viruses that are recognised and targeted by the immune system. An antigen test looks for antigens in a sample, to check if a person is currently infected with a specific pathogen, in this case SARS-CoV-2.

What is the difference between a COVID-19 Rapid Antigen test & a COVID-19 PCR test?

Both tests check to see if the COVID-19 virus is currently in your body. While COVID-19 PCR tests detect viral RNA, COVID-19 rapid antigen tests detect viral proteins. PCR tests are very accurate and can detect a COVID-19 infection even before the person becomes infectious. They require processing in a laboratory and thus, the cost and turnaround time is higher than for rapid antigen tests. Unlike a PCR test, a rapid antigen test doesn’t have to be processed in a laboratory and thus, the cost is lower and the turnaround time quicker. However, they are not as accurate as PCR because the rapid antigen test reveals patients at the peak of the infection when the body has the highest concentration of these proteins. Rapid antigen tests will find the virus in most people who have symptoms. But in some cases, it may not pick up that you have the virus.

Results from PCR tests will be provided the day after attending for the swab, whereas the results of a rapid antigen test can be processed the same day (usually within 1 hour).

If you’re using either test for travelling, it’s your responsibility to check that this test will be accepted in the country you’re travelling to. Some countries require confirmation of a negative PCR test result to permit entry into the country, so the rapid antigen test wouldn’t be suitable in this case. Entry requirements vary by country, and the latest information and guidance can be found here.