Are you traveling, working, or residing in another European country? Do you know where to be tested for Covid-19? PCR, serologic/antibody, antigen, or self-tests: Which tests are practiced in Europe? Thanks to the European Consumer Centres Network, this article presents the rules in various European countries.
There are different types of Covid-19 tests:
- Virological tests (RT-PCR) by nasal or saliva swab that can determine if a person is carrying the virus at the time of the test;
- Serologic tests that determine, by blood sample, if a person has developed antibodies after having been in contact with the virus;
- Antigen (rapid) tests by nasal swab that detect the presence of proteins produced by the virus (antigens) in less than 30 minutes;
- Self-tests that research the presence of antigens and can be administered by the patient them self. The results are known in around twenty minutes.
While PCR, serologic, and antigen tests are used in the majority of European countries, self-tests are under debate. The authorities of these countries fear that poorly executed nasal swabs may lead to false results and that the interpretation of negative results could lead to neglect towards safety measures.
France: Nasal swab self-tests have been authorised by the French National Authority for Health (la Haute Autorité de Santé) on 15 March 2021 and have been sold in some "pharmacies" since 12 April. They are recommended for symptom-free people over 15 years of age. All positive antigen self-tests must then be confirmed by a RT-PCR test.
If you are traveling, working, or residing in another European country, this article presents the types of Covid-19 tests, the prices and the waiting period for the result in 14 European countries.
Any person living, working, or studying in Austria can be tested without charge in any of the 2400 screening centres set up by the Austrian government. You can sign up for an appointment ahead of time or come without an appointment. The results of the test are known in 15 minutes.
Each person also has the right to 5 free self-tests per month to be collected at the pharmacy. These tests are intended for personal use only. They do not replace the need of an official test, which is the only valid test for going to see a barber, for example.
It is also possible to purchase tests at a pharmacy, laboratory, or specialist shops, especially for foreigners who cannot access free tests.
Any person can be tested (PCR test) at their regular doctor’s office, in a laboratory with a medical prescription, or at a screening centre. Consult the list of screening places on the official Belgium website.
The majority of PCR test results are available in 24 or 36 hours but this can take up to 48 hours, or even 72 hours in exceptional circumstances.
Antigen tests conducted by a health professional can no longer be sold directly to consumers.
Self-tests (with a CE marking followed by 4 digits) are authorised in Belgium but are not recommended. These can be purchased at a pharmacy. The waiting period to see results depends on the test.
Antigen and PCR tests can be obtained freely in hospitals with a medical prescription or with a fee of 50 to 75€ in medical analysis laboratories or private clinics (for non-residents, for example).
The results of antigen tests are known in 15 to 60 minutes; PCR tests in 6 to 24 hours.
Rapid self-tests are sold between 10 and 20€ in pharmacies without prescription. These results are known between 15 and 60 minutes, depending on the test.
Residents of Croatia can be tested rapidly and freely at their doctor’s office. These same tests cost 40-50€ in a private clinic.
The results are available within 24 hours.
Anyone can make an appointment to do an antigen test at a screening centre. In the case of suspected positive result, a PCR test is also administered. These tests are free once every three days or with a prescription. If not, they cost around 1500 CZK (about 57€).
The results of antigen tests are known in about 15 minutes. For PCR tests: up to 48 hours.
There are various screening places throughout Germany as well as in certain German airports where passengers can be tested at their own cost (between 128 and 150€). To be tested, you must make an appointment on the website 116117. To find a screening centre in a German state, consult the German government website.
People who present symptoms should visit a doctor, a clinic, or a screening centre to be tested. An appointment can also be made on the website 116117.
Since the 6 March 2021, it is possible to be tested free of charge and rapidly (antigen tests) by health professionals throughout Germany. Each German citizen has the right to one free test every week, except for teachers and students, who have the right to 2 free tests every week, if they have in-person courses.
In addition, you can purchase self-tests in stores, super markets, and pharmacies, but they are often out of stock. The German government warns that these rapid tests are not as reliable as PCR tests and requires that after each positive self-test, a PCR test be performed to confirm the result.
Free tests can be obtained in public hospitals or in the screening centres set up by the municipalities in public spaces or at a private doctor’s office (cost: 20-30€).
The results of rapid tests can be given in 20 minutes. PCR tests require more time, around 24 hours.
If you present symptoms and your regular doctor thinks you should be tested, you can go to a screening centre and get a free PCR test.
If you are in contact, you will receive a text message containing a link to make an appointment to be tested (PCR test). Screenings for international travel have to be paid for and administered by commercial enterprises.
The results of PCR tests are available within 2 days (1 to 2 days in the Dublin airport).
Antigen tests can be administered by certain laboratories and the results are known within the hour, but they are less reliable.
More information on the official Ireland website.
Anyone can be rapidly tested in a pharmacy without a prescription, in private clinics and medical analysis laboratories, for about 20-30€. The results of these tests are known in 30 to 60 minutes.
Self-tests are available in certain regions.
Any person living or arriving in Lithuania can be rapidly tested at the Vilnius airport (24 hours a day) or in private medical laboratories in the main cities of the country. These tests cost between 33 and 43€. The results of rapid tests are known in 30 minutes to 2 hours.
PCR tests cost between 90 and 140€ and the results are given between 3 and 24 hours.
There are 7 screening centres in Malta, where one can make an appointment and obtain results in 24-48 hours.
Antigen tests are sold for around 35€ in clinics or private pharmacies that are authorised by the Medicines Authority of Malta. The results are known between 30 and 120 minutes.
Travellers wishing to visit Malta must present a PCR test that is less than 72 hours old.
Tests can be obtained in public hospitals (free for Spanish residents), at screening centres, or in private clinics (for non-residents) for around 40€ for an antigen test and 100€ for a PCR test.
The results of antigen tests are available between 30 minutes and 2 hours. For PCR tests, they are available between 3 and 48 hours.
If you do not have symptoms, you can purchase an antigen test in certain pharmacies or make an appointment with a private doctor. The results are known within one hour on an application.
If you have symptoms, you can be tested for free at a health centre (PCR tests offered). The results are often given within 3 days, depending on the region.
To travel, you will have to pay for a PCR test.
More information (in English) on the official Sweden website.
Vaccination against Covid-19 in Europe
To combat the Covid-19 pandemic, the 27 countries of the European Union have started their vaccination campaigns in late December.
To know how the vaccination campaigns are advancing in European countries, read the article (in French) from our partner Toute l'Europe "Vaccination contre le Covid-19 en Europe : où en est-on ?"