BRITISH COLUMBIA – November 27th marked the launch of the WestJet-YVR COVID-19 Testing Study, a collaborative effort between researchers from UBC and Providence Health Care and project sponsors WestJet and Vancouver Airport Authority. The study—the first of its kind in Canada—is investigating a method of COVID-19 rapid testing to help inform the safest and most efficient way of testing departing passengers at Vancouver International Airport (YVR).
The study is located at WestJet’s domestic check-in area and includes three simple steps: registration and informed consent, testing, and results. The study is open to WestJet guests who are residents of British Columbia, between the ages of 19 and 80, and who have not tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days. Guests must be flying domestically, and testing is available on the day of travel only.
“WestJet is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring the safety of air travel through initiatives such as the WestJet-YVR COVID-19 Testing Study. We are proud to work with our partners at Vancouver Airport Authority in support of this important research being conducted by UBC and Providence Health Care. With just three simple steps, we encourage eligible guests to consider taking part while contributing to findings that may influence travel and public health in the future,” said Billy Nolen, Vice-President Safety, Security and Quality, WestJet.
Researchers from UBC and Providence are responsible for collecting samples in a ready-made testing station. A positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19 and participants who test positive will be required to undergo Health Canada-approved testing using the RT-PCR diagnostic test. For these guests, WestJet will rebook or cancel flights at no charge. Participants who test negative will continue their travel journey and are still required to follow all existing COVID-19 requirements.
“We know that asymptomatic carriers exist but what we don’t know is exactly how common it is and how much they contribute to the spread of COVID-19. This study will not only help support aviation safety, but will also help public health leaders better understand to what degree asymptomatic individuals are contributing to the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Don Sin, Co-principal Investigator; Professor, UBC Faculty of Medicine; Respirologist, Providence Health Care.
Prior to live implementation at YVR, researchers conducted laboratory evaluation and validation of several rapid antigen tests that use nasopharyngeal (nose) swabs and oral rinses for deployment in the study. Rapid antigen tests can provide results within 15 to 20 minutes, making them a feasible option for study in the live airport environment.
“We are committed to doing our part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, while instilling confidence in those who need to travel. Together with WestJet, UBC and Providence, we have embarked on this new study to complement other testing initiatives we are seeing across the country,” said Tamara Vrooman, President & CEO, Vancouver Airport Authority.
Upon study completion, the researchers will submit the results for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The results will then be shared with public health officials in an effort to contribute to a future testing framework for the aviation industry.
The study will operate Monday to Friday during peak morning hours. For more information on the study, please visit westjet.com/covidtesting. WestJet guests who meet the criteria noted above can register for the study at testingyvr.ca.