Overview of Corona Test Methods – Which Corona Test is useful?

A test for COVID-19 can be done in many places. At you can find testing facilities in Corona test centres, GP surgeries, clinics, pharmacies as well as in train stations and airports near you. You can also find and book providers of mobile test stations for Corona tests directly in your company directly on Corona Station. Different Corona Tests can be used in the respective Corona Test Stations.
Currently, there are the following established Corona test procedures:

Corona PCR test
The PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 provides reliable evidence of an acute Corona infection and is recognised by most authorities for entry into the country (in the case of a negative Corona test result). The PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test detects the genetic material of COVID-19 in a swab from the mouth, nose or throat. To avoid a false negative result, the swab must be taken from deep in the throat. This may cause a brief gag reflex in some people. The test kit with the swab is then tightly sealed in accordance with all test instructions and sent to a laboratory where they are analysed. In most cases, you will be informed of the results directly from the laboratory via password-protected e-mail, QR code or similar. This can take 2-5 days, depending on the workload of the laboratories. If the coronavirus test is positive, there is a high probability of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. In this case, quarantine is ordered by the competent health authority.
The Ct value (cycle threshold), which is also tested with the PCR test, provides conclusions about the infectiousness of the person tested. The value is determined by the number of cycles performed after which a positive measurement signal, i.e. the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2, is detected. The more cycles it takes to detect this signal, the lower the Corona viral load (lower Ct value). A high viral load affects how infectious an infected person is. A low viral load may be present because the Corona infection is already subsiding, because the sample collection was not optimal, or because the virus has migrated from the throat area to the lungs.
According to the Robert Koch Institute, nucleic acid amplification techniques (e.g. PCR) for the direct detection of the corona virus SARS-CoV-2 are currently accepted in principle from all states of the European Union as well as from most other states listed here. Travellers who require a corona test must ensure that the COVID-19 test is not more than 48 hours old at the time of entry, in order to avoid the probability that a corona infection has occurred in the meantime. Otherwise, negative Corona test results from a longer period of time may not be recognised by the authorities upon entry.

Corona PCR rapid test
The PCR rapid tests are the time-saving variant of the PCR test. They also detect the genetic material of the pathogen SARS-CoV-2. With the PCR rapid tests, it is not necessary to send the swab to a laboratory. The COVID-19 test kit has a cartridge that virtually replaces the laboratory. The polymerase chain reaction is carried out in the cartridge to amplify the virus sample. Fluorescent substances can stain the pathogen so that they become visible and thus confirm the presence of an infection. With PCR rapid tests, the result is usually available within about 2 hours.

Corona Antigen Rapid Test
When people talk about COVID-19 rapid tests, they usually mean the Corona Antigen Rapid Tests. Antigen rapid tests do not detect the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen, but protein fragments (proteins) of the virus. After the swab has been taken from the upper back of the throat, the test stick is dipped into a test solution and then placed on a test strip. The test strip changes colour when protein components of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen react with the test strip. The Corona Antigen Test can provide results within 15-30 minutes and can be performed completely on site. If the test result is positive, a PCR test must be performed afterwards to be sure. Antigen tests are useful for rapid sorting into potentially infected and potentially uninfected, such as in companies and farms, to avoid possible plant closures due to Corona outbreaks.
Depending on the manufacturer, there are differences in the specificity and sensitivity of Corona rapid tests. The specificity describes the accuracy of a Corona rapid test, i.e. whether all healthy persons tested are also recognised as healthy. The sensitivity value of the antigen test indicates whether all sick persons are also identified as sick. Corona antigen tests that have a high specificity and a high sensitivity are therefore particularly meaningful. According to the Robert Koch Institute, antigen tests for the direct detection of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus are generally recognised by all countries “provided that they meet the minimum criteria recommended by the WHO for the quality of SARS-CoV-2 Ag rapid tests. These include tests that achieve ≥80% sensitivity and ≥97% specificity, compared to PCR tests”. A list of BfArM listed antigen rapid tests can be found here.
Depending on the destination, negative corona test evidence may be required for entry into another country. Travellers must find out in good time whether a PCR test is required for the destination country or whether an antigen rapid test is already sufficient. Travellers coming from a risk area must follow the quarantine regulations of the responsible federal states. Currently, those entering or returning from a risk area must undergo a ten-day quarantine period after entering the country. In principle, the quarantine obligation can only be ended prematurely after five days by a negative Corona test result.

Corona antibody test
COVID-19 antibody tests cannot detect acute corona infection like the PCR test. This type of test only analyses whether the test person has already survived an infection with the pathogen SARS-CoV-2 by detecting coronavirus antibodies in the blood. The test does not detect the virus itself, but the reaction of the immune system to it, which starts to produce antibodies against the virus when it enters the body. Antibody tests are useful if you had COVID-19 symptoms 4 weeks ago or longer, but you have not had a PCR test. It is currently not possible to confirm whether immunity or protection against re-infection exists after surviving a corona infection. Corona antibody tests are particularly useful for epidemiological findings regarding herd immunity.


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