Our COVID-19 PCR Test Explained
What is a COVID-19 PCR Test?
A COVID-19 PCR test or a polymerase chain reaction test, is a COVID test that is done to find genetic material from the COVD-19 virus. This kind of molecular tests detects the RNA of the coronavirus and are sensitive enough to only need a very tiny amount of it in order to pick up an infection.
The benefit of this test is its ability to pick up very small amounts of viral RNA very early in an infection, so there is a low chance for false negatives, including among pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 cases.
What is the COVID PCR test procedure?
To do an PCR test for COVID-19 with Epicentre, you will need to either book a test online or just pop in to our branch in Wynberg (CT), Hillcrest (DUR), or Randburg (JHB).
Our nurse will open a new PCR Test packet. Using a new nasal swab they will collect a nasal cavity swab.
You are welcome to ask for the test to be conducted in your mouth rather. But we do recommend the nose as it is more accurate.
Our nurses are very gentle and whilst the test will be over quickly we will do our best to make you feel calm and safe during the entire process.
This swab will then be secured in its plastic tube and bag, with your information. This clear plastic bag will then be placed in a refrigeration unit, until sample collection. It will then be transported to our laboratory for analysis.
Our laboratory will analyse the sample and provide results on your COVID-19 infection status within 24-36 hrs of your testing procedure with us.
- If you want more information on how a COVID-19 PCR test is analysed at the lab take a look at this interesting break down.
- If you want more information on your test results take a look at our article.
Who should get a COVID-19 PCR test?
Having a COVID-19 PCR test is helpful if:
- You are looking to get a test done for an official purpose
- Such as leaving the country
- Entering a nursing home
- Having a medical procedure
- Or needing to get on an international flight
- You have been exposed to COVID-19 at least 5 or more days ago
- You have been exposed to COVID-19 and started symptoms
- You are showing COVID-19 like symptoms without a known exposure
Get a COVID-19 PCR Home test if
- You are unable to come to our drive-through location
- Due to frailty, young children or condition
- However, we highly recommend our drive through testing due to its ease of use and competitive price
Get a COVID-19 Antigen & PCR test if:
- If you urgently need to know your infection status, and you were exposed to COVID-19
- But you have not yet started COVID-19 symptoms
- Or you started symptoms more than 3 days ago
- Some countries require both a COVID-19 Antigen test and PCR test always check our travel regulations page and double check with your airline what is needed for your destination country.
Get only an COVID-19 Antigen test if:
- You have recently started symptoms of COVID-19 (1-3 days) and want a quick unofficial purpose infection check
- Your doctor thinks you may have the novel coronavirus and have recently started (1-3 days) symptoms and recommends a quick unofficial purpose infection check
- You have been in close contact with an individual suspected of or confirmed to have COVID-19 between 5-7 days ago, and you want to have a quick test done to check your status for unofficial purposes
- You had symptoms of COVID-19 in the past but weren’t tested
- Your doctor thinks you may have the novel coronavirus and started symptoms more than 3 days ago. But keep in mind:
- Rapid COVID Antibody tests are less sensitive to picking up current infections
- Rapid COVID Antibody tests predominately cannot be used for official purposes
- You have recovered from COVID-19 & want to check your immunity status
When should you get a COVID-19 PCR test?
You can test for COVID-19 5 days after you have been exposed to the virus.
In South Africa having a COVID test result can be the difference between getting into hospital, so we all need to understand that to book a COVID test with Epicentre:
- You DO NOT need to wait 7 days
- You need to wait 5 days after you think you touched or breathed in the COVID virus
- You DO NOT need a doctors referral
- You Do NOT need to be showing symptoms
- You just need to make an online booking or arrive at our testing branch
- We are happy to accept walk-ins
In the picture above you can see the process or stages of a COVID-19 infection
- Day (-)5: patients exposure to COVID-19 happens.
- It is only after this 5-day period that their infection will officially ‘begin’.
- Day 0-2: 5 days after their initial exposure, their infection will ‘happen’ in these first 2 days
- They will become contagious in those first 2-3 days, but will show no symptoms
- You can test at this point because your infection has officially begun
- Day 3: Their symptoms will appear
- But for 80% of people, they will have no symptoms or a mild case of COVID-19
- Day 5-7: This is a crucial period of days as it is at this point that many people go into hospital if they have a serious case of the virus. Some patients may have a “mild” case of the disease in the very beginning, but their symptoms may get worse over the course of the first week or more & then they may need hospitalization.
- Those who need hospitalization normally reach this point of needing additional health support on day 5 to 7 after their symptoms start (Wang, et al.).
- These patients should be on the lookout for any worsening ability to perform normal activities or tasks at home due to ‘shortness of breath’. These patients should immediately contact their doctor.
- These patients need to take a copy of their positive COVID-19 results & get their symptoms checked at a healthcare facility.
- For more information on the serious symptoms of COVID-19 to watch for, you can read our informative article.
- Day 14: If you had a mild case and are symptom free, you can stop isolating.
For a more in depth look at the stages of a COVID-19 infection take a look at our helpful article on the day by day symptoms of a COVID-19 infection.
What time should I come for my test?
Here are some handy tips for timing your test just right:
- At Epicentre, we have 2 collection times on Monday to Friday. Our first collection is at 11am and our second collection time is at 4pm.
- During the weekend it is dependent on our testing sites opening times
- In Hillcrest, we are open on Saturdays till 12pm that means that we only have 1 sample collection at 12pm which is why we cannot accept new orders after this time
- In Wynberg, we are open until 11am that means that we only have 1 sample collection at 11am which is why we cannot accept new orders after this time
- In Randburg, we are open until 2:30pm on Saturday, but we only have 1 sample collection at 2:4pm. On Sunday we are open until 3:30pm and sample collection is at 3:45pm.
- If you are looking to get your result within the 24hr window or less you should come before our 11am sample collection as it will be processed at the lab sooner.
- This is recommended for those getting a test done for an official purpose such as travelling or medical appointments
- If you are looking to avoid any waiting times, we recommend avoiding peak times such as 8-9am or during our nurses’ lunch break from 11:45am to 12:30pm
- A personal recommendation for those travelling is to come at 10am
How can a COVID-19 PCR test help you?
A COVID-19 PCR test can help you:
- We provide free COVID-19 PCR certificates with every PCR test
- You can use this certificate (if it is negative) for international travel or for entry into official locations such as nursing homes or hospitals
- You can use this certificate (if it is positive) for entry into hospital for treatment
- A PCR test can also give you certainty on your COVID-19 status as it is the most accurate COVID test on the market
What Laboratory Does Epicentre Use?
Where can you get a COVID-19 PCR test?
You can get COVID-19 tested by our COVID-19 testing angels at our Wynberg (CT), Randburg (JHB) or Hillcrest (DUR) branches.
You can learn more on our articles on our branches at: