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COVID-19: Rapid Testing to Replace the 14-Day Quarantine

To the point

A rapid testing procedure to replace the 14-day quarantine? Canada finally agreed to give it a try.

Rapid Tests To Replace 14-Day Quarantine

In partnership with the Government of Canada, the Province of Alberta launched a pilot program for a rapid test procedure. This is to replace the 14-day quarantine (in effect since March 2020 in Canada).

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The Alberta Pilot Program

Alberta’s pilot program on rapid testing procedures began on November 02, 2020 for a period of six months.

This program is for passengers arriving from an international flight at Calgary International Airport (YYC), or returning through the border with the United States (Coutts) and who are:

  • Canadian citizens
  • permanent residents
  • foreign citizens with a permit to enter Canada; and
  • essential workers benefiting from an exemption
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Are excluded from the pilot program:

  • foreign citizens traveling for pleasure or business
  • Canadian citizens travelling to other provinces (participants must remain in Alberta for 14 days after entering Canada)

It is on a voluntary basis only: passengers who do not wish to participate in this programme will have to comply with a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Passengers who accept the COVID-19 rapid test procedure will be required to isolate themselves for 48 to 72 hours before getting the test result. Two possibilities:

  • If the test is positive: they will have to isolate themselves for 14 days in Alberta.
  • If the test is negative: they will not have to quarantine. However, they will have to stay in Alberta for 14 days and will have to report any symptoms. And of course, they will have to respect all the rules related to social distancing or wearing a mask.
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Rapid tests

It is suprising that there is a 48 to 72-hour delay to get the results of these rapid tests. Indeed, these should theoretically be obtained in 13 minutes.

Maybe the government doesn’t want to get too far ahead of itself when the pilot project is launched, just enough time to get the system up and running. But it would not be surprising to see that delay being shortened.

It is surprising to see that this rapid test procedure (ID NOW), developed by Abbott, has been submitted to the FDA on March 27, 2020. Almost 7 months ago.

It can indeed take a long time between the end of a technology’s development and its market introduction.

Conclusion

It was time for Canada to start looking at this type of measure rather than maintaining a 14-day quarantine, gradually killing off the tourism industry (be it “pleasure” or business tourism). And the ripple effect, hurting our economy as a whole.

Air Canada has been at the forefront of efforts to convince the Canadian government to remove the 14-day quarantine, including the introduction of a large study on September 3, 2020 with McMaster HealthLabs and Toronto-Pearson International Airport (YYZ) targeting international passengers.

During this study, 13,000 tests were performed, and produced 99% negative results. And of the 1% of positives, more than 80% were detected in the initial 7-day quarantine phase. This suggests the possibility of reducing the quarantine from 14 days to 7 days.

Subsequently, Air Canada ordered 25,000 rapid test kits from Abbott, approved by Health Canada. In order to test its employees, first of all.

WestJet appeared to pull the rug from underneath Air Canada by getting approval for its Calgary hub (YYC) to get the Government of Canada’s pilot project, which Air Canada has just acknowledged in a press release.

In any case, this does not announce the end of the quarantine. Who knows when it will end? At most, we can hope for spring of 2021.

Photo Credit: Abbott

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