Air Canada ready to order rapid COVID-19 testing kits

Air Canada said Thursday that it is finalizing an order for ID NOW COVID-19 rapid response test kits that can provide results in minutes for airline passengers.

The national airline partnered with McMaster Health Labs (MHL) and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) to study arriving international travellers at the Toronto-Pearson Airport, and said that preliminary results from the study are positive that it can be used to better protect customers and help alleviate strict government travel restrictions.

"Air Canada continues to explore various options for testing for COVID-19 and we are finalizing an initial order from Abbott for 25,000 rapid test kits for voluntary employee testing now that it has been approved for use in Canada," said Air Canada's cheif medical officer Dr. Jim Chung. "We believe testing will be key to protecting employees and customers until such time as a COVID-19 vaccine is available. 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."

The rapid testing system, the airline said, may prove an alternative to the 14-day quarantine system.

The toaster-sized ID NOW testing kit gives results on the spot from tests "that detect the active virus to tests that detect antibodies in people who were previously infected," according to the company.

Results are available in 13 minutes or less using the device.

MHL performed 13,000 tests on volunteers since Sept. 3, according to the release.

Of those who stepped up to take the test, more than 99 per cent tested negative for COVID-19.

Of the less than one per cent who tested positive, more than 80 per cent were detected in the first test with the rest caught doing the Day 7 test.

Study results can be found online here.

Air Canada continues to require customers wear face coverings and have their temperatures taken before boarding.  

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