New COVID-19 testing program at Pearson airport to deliver results for select passengers in just two hours

By Rosa Saba, Business Reporter, Toronto Star

Travellers and employees at Toronto’s Pearson airport will soon be able to opt in to a COVID-19 testing research program that will deliver results in just two hours.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which operates Toronto Pearson International Airport, is working with several Canadian health care companies to deploy the 10-week program, which is designed to test the efficacy of antigen tests against the approved PCR test.

The program, which launches on March 1, is supported in part by funding from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP).

“This research will contribute substantial new scientific data to the body of knowledge used to fight this disease by improving access to testing that will identify, trace and isolate COVID-19,” said GTAA president and CEO Deborah Flint in a press release Wednesday.

Participants in the study — travellers or airport workers — will receive both a Health Canada-approved rapid PCR test by Canadian company LuminUltra, and a rapid antigen test by Canadian company Response Biomedical, which has not yet been approved by Health Canada.

Both tests are part of the NRC’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, said Dwayne Macintosh, the airport’s director of safety and security. The NRC’s role is to help bring Canadian technology into the market, he added.

“We’re privileged to partner with the GTAA to fight back against a pandemic that has devastated lives and economies,” said Dr. Michael Greenberg, CEO of both Fionet Rapid Response Group Inc. and Fio Corp., in a press release. “FRR and our collaborators, MedeVaq and OnPointOne Health, are eager to execute this impactful mission made possible by the government of Canada.”

Macintosh said Pearson wanted to bring rapid testing to the airport to keep the airport’s staff and their families safe, and to contribute to research on how rapid tests could be deployed not just in an airport for workers and travellers.

“I do believe that testing will still be a part of our life for some time,” said Macintosh. “If it is a part of our life for a while … we want to encourage people to travel safely, and testing will be an added part of that.”

Fionet Rapid Response Group (FRR), a joint venture between Fio Corp. and Relay Medical Corp., will provide the interface for passengers and employees taking the test, explained Macintosh. For travellers required to present a negative test before boarding, the test can be taken up to six hours before the flight, and results will be ready within two hours.

Participants will sign up online, reserving their spot ahead of time, and receive a QR code to present at the airport, said Macintosh. That QR code will be connected to their individual and anonymous serial number, which would be used to label the tests, and the results of the PCR test will be sent straight to the participant’s phone.

To qualify, participants need to be 5 years or older, and have no COVID-19 symptoms.

The study is meant to test the efficacy of the antigen test by comparing its results to the approved PCR test, said Macintosh.

SOURCE Toronto Star