Air Canada Starts Voluntary COVID-19 Arrival Testing


Air Canada is partnering with Toronto Pearson International Airport and McMaster HealthLabs to start voluntarily testing international passengers upon arrival. The goal of the study is to determine the effectiveness of quarantine periods.

Three aviation stakeholders want to test how many inbound passengers are coming to Canada with COVID-19, as an evidence-based measure to determine if the two-week quarantine is still the best method to protect against the virus. In a press release, Air Canada announced they will partner with McMaster HealthLabs and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority to offer testing at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) to explore “the effectiveness of various quarantine periods for travelers.”

Voluntary Testing Hopes to Provide Evidence-Based Solutions

Much like the United States, Canada requires most inbound visitors to quarantine for 14 days, in case they are unknowingly carrying the novel Coronavirus. However, the airline hopes to help ease those restrictions using science to determine just how many flyers actually have the virus.

“Air Canada has advocated for the adoption of rational, science-based measures in Canada relating to COVID-19, to allow for the prudent easing of travel restrictions and the mandatory 14-day quarantine, thereby striking a better balance for travelers and for the Canadian economy without adversely impacting public health,” Dr. Jim Cheung, chief medical officer for Air Canada, said in a press release. “We are pleased to co-sponsor this extremely important study, which we believe should provide alternatives to the current blanket restrictions and quarantine.”

The month-long testing project is designed and managed by McMaster University, using ethics board-approved protocols. The goal is to determine the number of inbound international flyers who test positive for COVID-19 during the 14-day quarantine period.

Upon arrival, visitors arriving at Terminal 1 of Toronto Pearson International Airport will be asked if they would like to participate in the study. Those who volunteer to do so will give a sample to McMaster University researchers at the airport. They will then provide two additional samples through self-testing: one seven days after arrival, and one 14 days after arrival. Participants will be informed of the first test results within 48 hours.

To ensure the testing is accurate, specimens will be analyzed by the Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton using the PCR method. Lufthansa requires flyers who say they cannot wear a mask to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test prior to travel. Results will be analyzed by an independent group, which will then scrutinize the data prior to its publishing.

Testing Plan Comes as Multiple Stakeholders Call for Canada to Open Borders

As the study begins, more stakeholders are calling on the Canadian government to determine a safe and effective way to open borders to international travelers once again. Both the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) and the National Airlines Council of Canada have demanded the Canadian parliament determine a plan to welcome travelers back into the nation.

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