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Hamilton experts heading up Major airport COVID testing project

Hamilton experts heading up Major airport COVID testing project

McMaster HealthLabs (MHL), Air Canada, and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) are partnering on a voluntary COVID- 19 study of international travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport. The study’s core purpose is to explore the effectiveness of various quarantine periods for travellers. Depending on the results, the study could result in new protocols that would open up international air travel more than at present.

Said John Gilmour, MHL’s Chief Executive Officer. “Our study will provide data to help determine if an airport-based COVID-19 surveillance program is feasible, whether self-collection of COVID-19 testing is effective, and to explore options regarding the 14-day quarantine for international travel.

“Air Canada has advocated for the adoption of rational, science-based measures in Canada relating to COVID-19, to allow for the prudent easing of travel restrictions and the mandatory 14- day quarantine, thereby striking a better balance for travellers and for the Canadian economy without adversely impacting public health. We are pleased to co-sponsor this extremely important study, which we believe should provide alternatives to the current blanket restrictions and quarantine,” said Dr. Jim Chung, Chief Medical Officer at Air Canada.

The month-long research project has been designed and will be conducted by MHL in accordance with research ethics board-approved scientific protocols. The study will be the largest of its kind and will seek to examine the number and percentage of arriving international travellers who test positive for COVID-19 during the federal government’s quarantine period. The findings of the study may be useful to the Government of Canada in its decision-making to control the spread of COVID-19 and in exploring policy options. Air Canada, as the largest Canadian airline operating out of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, is providing resources and support for the study.

Returning passenger providing a test sample

McMaster HealthLabs’ Scientific Director Dr. Marek Smieja, also a McMaster University professor and the study’s co-principal investigator, said: “MHL’s study will generate data to help us better understand and communicate the potential risk to the health of Canadians posed by international air travel and the risk of the importation of COVID-19.”

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