YVR, WestJet, UBC to run pilot study on pre-departure virus testing

VANCOUVER — Passengers travelling through Vancouver International Airport on a WestJet flight could be tested before boarding as part of a new pilot study.

The airport authority and the airline announced Thursday that the University of B.C. had been selected as the research partner to conduct a COVID-19 rapid testing pilot at YVR.

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When the pilot study launches, passengers departing on selected WestJet flights through YVR will be invited to participate voluntarily. Information gathered in the study will be provided to public health officials and help shape the response to COVID-19 long-term by airlines and in airport operations.

“This partnership with Vancouver Airport Authority is part of our relentless push to help ensure a safe travel environment for our guests and employees,” said Billy Nolen, vice-president of safety, security and quality with the airline.

“We hope that working with leading experts like those at UBC will help us to collect, test and act to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in conjunction with our myriad of other layered safety measures.”

The study, which is still being designed, will test real-time COVID-19 testing for passengers at the airport. The first step will be asking passengers to share their thoughts, perceptions and willingness to undergo voluntary COVID-19 testing before the study is launched.

Earlier this week, Tampa International Airport announced it had launched a COVID-19 testing pilot at the airport for arriving and departing passengers during the month of October. Testing is available to anyone who has flown or is flying within three days and can show an airline ticket. Two types of walk-in tests are offered: a rapid antigen test for US$57 or a nasal swab for $125. Tampa is the first airport in the U.S. to offer testing in-house.

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