Air Canada Orders 25,000 Rapid Covid-19 Tests & Initial Results From Airport Test Study

Air Canada today released initial results from the Covid-19 testing study that incoming passengers could voluntarily participate at the Toronto Pearson airport from early September.

The airline has also ordered 25,000 rapid Covid-19 test kits from Abbot to further study international arrival and employee testing.

The study findings:

Air Canada, with McMaster Health Labs, has conducted roughly 13,000 tests for arriving passengers, and less than 1% have tested positive for Covid-19. 80% of those at the time of arrival and 20% during the second test at the 7-day mark.

Here’s more about the study:

Free Covid-19 Tests For International Arrivals At Toronto’s Pearson Airport T1 Through Early October 2020

Here’s the release from Air Canada:

MONTREAL, Oct. 1, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ – Air Canada said today that it is finalizing an initial order of Abbott’s ID NOW COVID-19 rapid response tests as part of its ongoing evaluation of COVID-19 testing technology and protocols. The airline, which last month partnered with McMaster Health Labs (MHL) and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) in a study of arriving international travellers at Toronto-Pearson, said preliminary results from the study indicate testing can help protect customers and facilitate the safe relaxation of government travel restrictions.

“Air Canada continues to explore various options for testing for COVID-19 and we are finalizing an initial order from Abbott for 25,000 rapid test kits for voluntary employee testing now that it has been approved for use in Canada. Understanding that we will need to live alongside this virus for the short- to medium-term, we have been pursuing relationships and a layered approach as a way to keep our employees and our customers safe.  We believe testing will be key to protecting employees and customers until such time as a COVID-19 vaccine is available. Rapid testing is also a means to enable governments to relax current blanket travel restrictions and quarantines in a measured way while still safeguarding the health and safety of the public,” said Dr. Jim Chung, Air Canada’s Chief Medical Officer.

“We are further encouraged in our belief in the effectiveness of testing, including self-administered testing, by the preliminary results from our partnership with MHL and the GTAA. The preliminary results suggest a shorter, test-based strategy may be an available and safe alternative to the 14-day quarantine.”

Since the Toronto-Pearson study began September 3, MHL has conducted nearly 13,000 tests of returning international travellers who volunteered to participate. Of those more than 99% have tested negative for COVID-19 with less than 1% having indicated COVID-19. Of the less than 1% indicating COVID-19, more than 80% are being detected in the initial test and the rest on the Day 7 test, with none being detected by the Day 14 test. For more information on the MHL study see https://aircanada.mediaroom.com/2020-09-03-McMaster-HealthLabs-Air-Canada-and-Greater-Toronto-Airports-Authority-to-Conduct-a-Voluntary-COVID-19-Study-of-Arriving-International-Travellers.

Conclusion

The second test may have picked up Covid-19 infections that took place during the travel to Canada, or just before starting the trip or after arrival, as it takes for a couple of days for these tests to pick up the virus.

I am sure that Air Canada and McMaster Health Labs will release full study results when they are available. Less than 1% is unclear – it could be 0.1 or 0.99%.

It is still unclear how effective the Covid-19 is spreading in a closed airplane environment. There was this case of a Vietnamese woman traveling to London in business class who ended up infecting few passengers seated in the same cabin with her. This was before the masking up was required by most, if not all, airlines.

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