Fully vaccinated Canadian travelers who have recently recovered from COVID-19 feel safer to travel internationally, but some are learning the hard way that a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test can be done weeks or months after beating an infection.
A Surrey woman and her husband, who booked a flight to India to attend a colleague’s wedding, worried that a positive rapid antigen test before Christmas could derail their plans to travel on January 8.
“I was positive, I recovered, negative, and I was like, ‘Hey, we’re fine,’” Jackie Barron said.
But she and her husband tested positive for a mandatory pre-flight PCR test and had to cancel their trip to India at the last minute.
“Of course, we were very upset,” Barron said, who had no idea they could still test positive for a molecular test long after they had recovered from COVID-19.
I also learned that because molecular testing can detect a prior COVID infection, the Canadian government is allowing citizens to return without retesting if they have had a positive PCR test between 11 and 180 days. So she and her husband went to Mexico.
“Free from COVID, but with a positive PCR test,” Barron said. “They asked us to see the positive PCR back from Mexico, and it was easy on the plane we got.”
The vast majority of British Columbians are no longer eligible for the government-funded PCR test. Therefore, Barron recommends that anyone who tests positive for a rapid home antigen test and wants to travel within the next six months pay for a private PCR test after the five-day COVID-19 isolation period ends.
“It’s worth going and getting a private test and getting a positive test, so you don’t have to worry and there are no travel issues,” Barron said.
While private testing can be expensive, travelers will still need to pay for a PCR test before returning to Canada, and having a previous positive test removes this requirement.
Vancouver’s family physician, Dr. Anna Wollack, said a doctor’s note would not be enough.
Many of us receive requests from patients saying, ‘I think I have coronavirus. I did a quick test. I think he will test positive for PCR. “I want you to write me a note,” he said, “but we can’t.”
With a positive PCR test allowing him to return to Canada without being tested again until the summer, Barron is already planning another trip to Mexico with his family in May.
“I will be gold and my husband will be gold,” she said of her positive papers.
“Children may not be because they don’t have COVID. So we would expect them to experience a negative return, or the restrictions may have been lifted.”