PCR testing to detect Covid-19
PCR Testing (Polymerase Chain Reaction Testing) is commonly conducted at a certified laboratory and takes a few hours to complete with the result being reported within 1-3 days. The specimen for this test is collected via a nasal and/or throat swab and looks for genetic material that comes only from the virus.
This test can be used by a symptomatic person for diagnostic purposes, or by an asymptomatic person needing a negative result (e.g. for work, school, or travel).
It is possible to get a false negative reading for this test (mainly due to the incorrect collection of specimen) which could result in misdiagnosis of someone who is infected. However, the PCR test is currently the most accurate test to diagnose an active COVID-19 infection. Patients who receive a positive test result are contagious and can transmit the virus to others through close contact.