Air Canada is welcoming Canada's pilot project to test international and transborder travellers arriving in Alberta for COVID-19, the airline said on Thursday (Oct. 22).
Alberta's initiative, which aims to reduce the mandatory 14-day quarantine periods for travellers, was announced on Thursday by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Calgary Airport Authority CEO Bob Sartor.
Speaking to media via telephone, Kenney revealed that travellers entering Canada by land or air through Alberta will have an option of being rapid tested for COVID-19 at the border starting Nov. 2nd.
The current 14-day self-isolation period could, in turn, be shortened to nearly 48 hours if a traveller receives a negative COVID-19 test result.
The program will be available to Canadian citizens returning to Canada through the province of Alberta, as well as foreign essential workers and others that are exempt from Canada's non-essential travel ban advisory.
The tests will be offered at the Coutts land border crossing in southern Alberta and Calgary International Airport.
In praise of rapid testing
In a release, Air Canada noted how that it, too, has been a strong advocate of the use of rapid testing to protect customers and employees.
As some may recall, Air Canada partnered with McMaster HealthLabs (MHL) and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority for a study on testing that continues to yield results that demonstrate the validity of testing as a means to ease travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.
"We know Canadians expect the rich data from these test results to lead to a loosening of the federal government's quarantine requirements immediately, which will allow families to reunite and the economy to resume. Our customer surveys clearly show that Canadians favour safe and science-based alternatives to blanket quarantines. The results from the McMaster study at Toronto-Pearson were instrumental in guiding the federal government and public health agencies to add the easing of quarantine to this latest testing initiative. I have personally heard from numerous business leaders in Canada and from other countries who are very anxious to see the quarantine requirements safely abridged as soon as possible," stated Calin Rovinescu, president and CEO at Air Canada.
Dr. Jim Chung, Air Canada's Chief Medical Officer, added:
"The preliminary results from the MHL study provide evidence that testing passengers on arrival into Canada may be an effective way to screen for COVID-19. The data has provided the federal government and the government of Alberta with the confidence to move forward with this new testing initiative. In fact, today Alberta Premier Jason Kenney thanked Air Canada for helping advocate for measures to safely reduce quarantine, which is an encouraging step in the continued push for a secure resumption of air travel. 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."
28,000+ tests conducted
Since the Toronto-Pearson study began Sept 3, MHL has conducted more than 28,000 tests of arriving travellers who volunteered to participate.
On Oct. 1, Air Canada announced that it was finalizing an initial order for 25,000 ID NOW rapid COVID-19 test kits from Abbott as part of its ongoing evaluation of COVID-19 testing technology and protocols.
Air Canada was among the first carriers globally to require customer face coverings onboard and the first airline in the Americas to take customers' temperatures prior to boarding.
In May, it introduced a comprehensive program, Air Canada CleanCare+, to apply industry leading biosafety measures at each stage of the journey.
Air Canada has also undertaken several medical collaborations to further advance biosafety across its business, including with Cleveland Clinic Canada for medical advisory services, Ottawa-based Spartan Bioscience to explore portable COVID-19 testing technology and, since 2019, with Toronto-based BlueDot for real-time infectious disease global monitoring.
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