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Hamilton-based study will test passengers arriving at Pearson Airport for COVID-19

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Hamilton-based study will test passengers arriving at Pearson Airport for COVID-19

Researchers in Hamilton have launched a COVID-19 research study that will see international travellers arriving at Pearson Airport voluntarily tested for the virus.

In a press release sent Thursday (Sept 3), McMaster HealthLabs (MHL), St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Air Canada, and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) announced that they have partnered to undertake the study that will explore the effectiveness of various quarantine periods for travellers.

Participants in the study will provide a sample to researchers in the terminal and two more self-collected samples seven and fourteen days after touchdown.

The samples, obtained via nose and throat swabs, will then be analyzed for COVID-19 at St. Joseph’s hospital research institute.

The co-sponsors say participants will be notified electronically within 48 hours of the first results, which will remain confidential and be aggregated for independent data analysis by the University of Toronto’s school of public health.

“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,” said John Gilmour, MHL’s Chief Executive Officer in a press release.

“The leadership of Air Canada and the GTAA in supporting COVID-19 research serves as a model for other organizations looking to make evidence-based decisions.”

The month-long project 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, a press release says.

The molecular test for COVID-19 being used in this study was designed by Dr. David Bulir at the Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton.

The study comes in advance of a pilot project by WestJet Airlines Ltd. and Vancouver International Airport to test passengers voluntarily for the coronavirus on some departing flights starting later this fall.

The trial studies mark the latest move in a broader push by carriers to show they are serious about combating viral spread as they try to coax Canadians back to the skies.

Dr. Jim Chung, Air Canada’s chief medical officer, said in a statement the project “should provide alternatives to the current blanket restrictions and quarantine.”

— with a file from The Canadian Press

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