Rapid antigen testing is an effective, acceptable and cost-efficient method for screening travellers, according to new research conducted by the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Providence Health Care.
The study, which was sponsored by WestJet and the Vancouver Airport Authority, reports that rapid antigen testing contributes to safer and healthier air travel.
Over a four-month period, from November 2020 through February 2021, nearly 600 departing passengers at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) were tested for COVID-19 using rapid antigen testing.
All tests negative
All tests administered during this period were negative, the study says, leading researchers to conclude that transmissible infection in airline passengers departing from YVR is likely to be extremely low (less than one per cent).
Methodology and study findings could contribute to a future testing framework for the broader travel industry, WestJet said in a release on Tuesday (April 20).
“Thank you to the almost 600 guests who took part in the WestJet-YVR COVID-19 testing study this past winter. While not mandatory, your actions contributed to helping our partners at UBC and Providence Health determine that the use of rapid antigen testing is an effective part of a safe travel journey,” said Billy Nolen, vice-president health, safety and quality Assurance at WestJet.
“While the vaccine continues to rollout, testing adds an additional and scientifically-sound layer to our already rigorous health and hygiene measures and can help restore confidence in not only travel, but in activities across all parts of our communities.”
Researchers from UBC and Providence were responsible for collecting samples in a ready-made testing station.
Results gathered were further validated through PCR testing in a lab environment, the study says.
Participant feedback was “resoundingly positive, with many saying the procedure was efficient, more comfortable than expected and instilled confidence about the safety of their travels.”
The research team found the test itself took approximately 15 to 20 minutes, resulting in minimal disruption to the overall travel experience.
The study, located at WestJet’s domestic check-in area at YVR, was open to WestJet guests who are residents of British Columbia, between the ages of 19 and 80, and who had not tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days.
Guests had to be flying domestically and testing was available on the day of travel only.
“It demonstrates the commitment and interest from our community in rapid testing solutions,” said Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO at the Vancouver Airport Authority, of the study. “Data gathered will be used for future testing strategies for the aviation industry, adding another layer of science-based health protocols to help reopen travel in a safe and efficient manner and to restore confidence amongst travellers.”
Vrooman added that she was hopeful the study results will go beyond aviation and prove useful across other industries during the pandemic.
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