A senior official with Victoria International Airport says the airport is still researching COVID-19 testing regimes but predicts testing and screening will remain part of the aviation industry even after vaccines have rolled out. (Black Press Media file photo)

A senior official with Victoria International Airport says the airport is still researching COVID-19 testing regimes but predicts testing and screening will remain part of the aviation industry even after vaccines have rolled out. (Black Press Media file photo)

Victoria International Airport researching COVID-19 testing options

Senior official predicts ‘screening and testing will be around long after the vaccination rollout’

Victoria International Airport is currently researching COVID-19 testing regimes for passengers travelling through the airport.

Ken Gallant, vice-president of operations for Victoria International Airport, said the airport currently finds itself “very much in a research stage” in trying to learn more about both rapid COVID-19 tests and more traditional PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests.

“We have been doing a lot of research over the last couple of months,” he said. “We participate through a national airport council to gather more information and we are trying to understand what is happening in the other trials.”

He made these comments as North American governments are imposing additional measures affecting airlines to curb the spread of COVID-19. Industry experts also see enhanced testing as a tool to help the industry recover from the economic effects of the pandemic by giving travellers personal confidence and authorities less reason to curtail travel as a transmission source.

RELATED: Victoria International Airport revenues in a tailspin

Travellers aged two years and older bound for the United States must show negative PCR test results before boarding their flights starting Jan. 26. Travellers aged five years and older entering Canada from an international destination must present a negative PCR or RT-LAMP (reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification) test result before entering the country as of Jan. 7. International travellers arriving in Canada must continue to quarantine for 14 days.

Gallant said several Canadian airports (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal) with major international routes all find themselves in different phases of trial projects. “We are continuing to monitor how those are progressing and what evidence, what data is coming in from those trials,” he said.

It is not clear how much a COVID-19 testing regime at the airport would cost. Rapid tests delivering results anywhere between one and 15 minutes could cost as little as $25 to $30, while PCR tests (whose results may take several hours, if not days to arrive) could cost up to $25o to $300, said Gallant. “But due to a lack of scientific data, they are not being recognized in the provincial restrictions as an adequate negation,” he said.

RELATED: COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

One consideration concerning PCR testing is its timing. Both Canada and the United States require testing within 72 hours before departure from an international destination.

Gallant said it is possible that travellers requiring PCR testing could undergo such testing at the airport or off-airport, as it is currently the case at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, which is currently conducting a trial.

It is too early to say when Victoria might follow.

When asked whether the current roll-out of vaccines will eventually render the research into testing at the airport moot, Gallent said both processes are unfolding independently.

“I feel that screening and testing will be around long after the vaccination rollout,” he said.


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