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.

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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Coronavirus: B.C.’s seniors advocate calls for rapid testing in long-term care homes

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.

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.”

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.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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