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WestJet and the Vancouver Airport Authority (VAA) say that the results of their high-profile COVID-19 Testing Study at YVR, now concluded, prove that antigen testing is an “effective, acceptable, and cost-efficient method for screening travellers” that can contribute to “safer and healthier air travel.”

Led by UBC and Providence Health Care, and sponsored by the airline and airport, the antigen test study involved 600 passengers over a four-month period from November through February and did not produce a single positive result, prompting researchers to conclude that that transmissible infection in airline passengers departing from YVR is likely to be extremely low (less than one per cent).

Researchers were responsible for collecting samples in a ready-made testing station located at check-in and further validated through PCR testing in a lab environment.

Participant feedback was reported to be “resoundingly positive,” with many saying the procedure was efficient, more comfortable than expected, and instilled confidence about the safety of their travels.

The study was open to BC residents between the ages of 19 and 80 who had not tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and were flying domestically and took approximately 15 to 20 minutes, resulting in minimal disruption to the overall travel experience.

Both WestJet and VAA say they hope that the study’s methodology can contribute to a future testing framework for the broader travel industry.

“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,” stated Vancouver Airport Authority president and CEO Tamara Vrooman. “We’re also hopeful that our study results will go beyond aviation and prove useful across other industries as we move through the pandemic.”

UBC professor Dr. Marc Romney added, “Rapid antigen testing is a critically important tool – and perhaps an underutilized tool – in our ability to prevent and control COVID-19. The findings from our study provide further evidence that this technology can be successfully deployed in an airport setting, and that rapid antigen testing performs surprisingly well – even in a low-prevalence population, such as air travellers.”

First published at Travel Industry Today

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