Rapid COVID-19 testing trialed at Vancouver International Airport

Vancouver International Airport is running a pilot project with rapid COVID-19 testing that could give an eye to the future of air travel during the pandemic.

Domestic passengers taking a WestJet flight are being invited to take a test before boarding that turns results around in as little as 15 minutes.

Read more: Vancouver airport to launch pilot project that offers rapid COVID-19 tests

If passengers return a positive test, they’ll be rebooked on a future flight at no cost, while their test sample is sent to St. Paul’s Hospital for confirmation.

Thirty-two people have been tested so far.

“So far the results have been really positive — not only positive in the fact that we’ve identified no COVID, but also positive in terms of the process itself,” YVR president and CEO Tamara Vrooman told Global News, Friday.

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Read more: List of recent flights through British Columbia with COVID-19 exposures

“They find it easy, they find it calming, and it really builds their confidence and their knowledge going forward.”

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The pilot project, a partnership between the airport, WestJet and the University of British Columbia, is hoping to test between 1,000 and 1,200 people.

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Researchers are also hoping the screening can catch asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers.

“The technology we will deploy here is called rapid antigen test,” said Dr. Don Sin, a UBC professor and respirologist with Providence Healthcare.

“It’s a very simple test where we take a nasal swab and we apply it to a little sheet of paper that’s coated with antibodies, and we get the test results within 15-20 minutes.”

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Read more: Health Canada approves first Canadian-made rapid COVID-19 test

Participants are also being invited to take a mouth-rinse/gargle test as well, to compare the results.

“The most frequent comment is, ‘It’s easier than I thought, it’s rapid, very easy to do,'” Sin said.

The airport is looking to run the pilot, which is the first of its kind in Canada, for about three months.

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