Air Canada Begins COVID-19 Study At Toronto Airport

Air Canada has started a voluntary COVID-19 study with McMaster HealthLabs and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority. The trial will see volunteers giving samples to be tested for COVID-19 at regular intervals to help understand the effectiveness of quarantine.

Air Canada, Toronto Airport, COVID-19 Tests
Air Canada is launching a COVID-19 testing trial at Toronto Airport. Photo: Air Canada

Around the world, travelers and airlines are calling for robust COVID-19 testing at borders to avoid mandatory quarantine periods. Air Canada has been lobbying for this in Canada. While some countries, such as Germany, opened the option to every traveler, others including as the UK, have so far refused to give the green light to the testing of arrivals.

Air Canada’s trial

Air Canada’s medical trial will begin today, September 3rd. Passengers will have to opt into the trial, with those landing at Toronto Airport’s Terminal 1 being eligible to take part. Upon arrival, those who consent to the program will have a sample taken by McMaster HealthLabs before leaving the airport.

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Passengers will then have to quarantine for the remainder of the federal government’s mandated period. They will receive the results of the test within 48 hours. However, a negative test is not a get out of jail free card from quarantine.

Air Canada, Toronto Airport, COVID-19 Tests
Terminal 1 arrivals will be able to opt into the optional program. Photo: Air Canada

While quarantining, participants will be asked to take second and third samples on days 7 and 14. This will help researchers to understand if people are passing COVID-19 tests on arrival, but only producing noticeable loads of the virus several days later.

Air Canada is lobbying for the government to bring in science-based measures to help ease both travel restrictions and the country’s mandatory 14-day quarantine period. No doubt, these results will be used by the airline to prove that testing works for the government.

Commenting, Dr. Jim Chung, Chief Medical Officer at Air Canada, said,

“Air Canada believes that issues arising from COVID-19 related to travel can be safely managed using a science-based approach.  The study performed by MHL, whose team has years of infectious disease academic research experience, should improve the understanding of the prevalence of COVID-19 among travellers so that safety measures implemented are proportionate to the actual risk.”

Air Canada, Toronto Airport, COVID-19 Tests
Tests will be taken on arrival, after seven days, and after 14 days. Photo: Air Canada

Helpful elsewhere in the world?

While the trial will be very focused on Canada, its results could perhaps have ramifications on a grander scale. For example, the UK could use such a study in developing a COVID-19 testing strategy for arrivals.

Currently, the UK government has been unhappy to change its guidelines, much to the annoyance of airlines and travelers. As such, all travelers from high-risk countries must quarantine for 14 days, regardless of if they have a negative COVID-19 test. This has meant that Heathrow Airport has so far not opened its COVID-19 testing facilities to travelers, as in reality, they would have little to no impact.

Do you support the COVID-19 trial being carried out by Air Canada? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!