A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

The Vancouver International Airport said there appears to be strong support for pre-flight COVID-19 testing ahead of a pilot program scheduled for November.

In a Monday (Oct. 26) update, YVR vice-president of operations and maintenance Robyn McVicker and WestJet vice-president of safety, security and quality Billy Nolen said polling conducted last week showed nearly two-thirds strongly supported taking pre-flight COVID tests.

The airport is partnering with the University of B.C., which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing, as well as conducting an ethics review. There have been four COVID-19 tests approved by Health Canada that do not need to be sent back to a laboratory. Of those four, two can provide results in 15 minutes or less.

READ MORE: First antigen rapid test for COVID-19 gets Canadian approval

“It is crucial that we take a science-based approach to improving public confidence in air travel,” the executives said. Air travel in Canada ground to a near-halt during the beginning of the pandemic, down from 199,000 flight hours in January to 13,000 hours in May, according to Statistics Canada. The latest statistics available show that air travel rebounded to 36,000 flight hours in July, when cases were comparatively low across the country.

The upcoming pilot project will target Lower Mainland residents who can more easily return home if they test positive for the virus, and be operation for four hours each day.

The program will use a 40-foot Citizen Care Pod, which will provide privacy and utilize HEPA air filters, to carry out the tests.

The testing will entail a straightforward process—a brief consult with research coordinators prior to undergoing testing, followed by a short questionnaire before receiving results – and will not add much time to the airport journey,” the executives noted.

READ MORE: Vancouver airport to pilot pre-flight COVID-19 tests for select WestJet passengers


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