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Article: How Long Do PCR Test Results Take?

How Long Do PCR Test Results Take?

How Long Do PCR Test Results Take?

The two main diagnostic tests for Covid-19 are the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and the rapid antigen tests. Due to the accuracy and reliability of the PCR test, this test is considered the golden standard for Covid-19 tests.

However, despite this test’s accuracy, it doesn’t give instant results like the FlowFlex Covid test and other rapid tests. The reason, samples for PCR testing have to be taken to the lab for analysis. This lab process can take days meaning that results often take longer than that of a rapid antigen test.

So, how long do PCR results take? If you take a PCR test onsite, you may be able to get your results in a few hours but if you have to send your sample to the lab, the return of your results may take longer. In this article, we look at the average PCR test result time so that the next time you decide to take a Covid-19 PCR test, you’ll know how long you need to wait before you can track PCR test results.

What Is Covid-19 PCR Testing?

The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test is a molecular test that analyzes a sample by checking the genetic material also referred to as ribonucleic acid or RNA of a virus. This testing method uses a saliva sample or nasal or throat swabs to detect the genetic material of the virus that causes Covid-19.  

The genetic material is first converted from a single-stranded RNA to double-stranded DNA.  The DNA strands are then separated with the help of primers. Small sections of DNA are then amplified or copied. This cycle is repeated numerous times to create numerous DNA copies. These copies make it easier for one to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the specimen.

How Long Do Coronavirus Test Results Take?

One of the commonest questions we get from our clients is how long for PCR results do I have to wait? Unlike PCR tests, lateral flow tests such as the Healgen Covid-19 test produce results in as little as 15 minutes. However, PCR results time is longer. This is because after a health provider takes your sample, they have to take it to the lab for analysis. Similarly, when you use at-home PCR testing kits, you have to mail the sample to a lab that is specified in the test instructions.

A Covid-19 PCR test sample requires special laboratory equipment and technologies for analysis, which is why it has to be taken to the lab for processing.  Depending on how long it takes for the sample to reach the lab, it can take 1 to 2 days to get your test results. Some labs also have a backlog of tests which may mean you may have to wait even longer to know the results. However, in some instances, especially if you take your test in a walk-in or drive-through clinic that processes the test on-site, you may be able to get your results in a few hours.

How Long Can You Test Positive After Covid-19?

A positive Covid-19 PCR test result occurs when the DNA material is amplified to successfully create hundreds of copies. On the other hand, a negative result occurs if amplification does not occur as this is an indication that the sample did not have any virus.

The PCR test is a highly sensitive test, which is why it’s the ideal Covid-19 testing method for people with low viral loads. It’s also the recommended testing option for users who are asymptomatic or those who are in the early stages of a Covid-19 infection.

Unfortunately due to the sensitivity of the PCR test, the test may continue to detect small amounts of the SARS-CoV-2 virus long after recovery. This means that one may continue to test positive for the virus even after they have recovered and they’re no longer contagious. Healthy people who have been re-infected with the Covid-19 virus may also test positive during reinfection.


In closing, PCR test results often take a few days to be available because a PCR test sample requires to be taken to the lab for analysis. The PCR test is a highly sensitive test that can detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus even when someone has very low viral loads. This also means that the test may continue giving positive Covid-19 results to people who have already recovered from the virus.

If you continue to test positive for Covid-19 even after you’ve recovered from the virus, you should talk to healthcare professionals so that they can give you the right medical advice. And if you prefer to take a rapid antigen test rather than a PCR test, we have plenty of lateral flow tests. Contact us and get your test today!

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