COVID-19 study with international travellers starts today at Pearson airport
Published Thursday, September 3, 2020 11:20AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 3, 2020 4:51PM EDT
Researchers from McMaster University are working with Air Canada and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) to try to study how effective various quarantine periods are for returning travellers.
Starting today, international travellers arriving at Pearson’s Terminal 1 are being invited to take part in a voluntary survey by McMaster HealthLabs’ (MHL) researchers, according to a press release issued by Air Canada on Thursday.
The month-long study is the largest of its kind, according to the researchers, and will examine the number and percentage of arriving international travellers who test positive for the virus during the federal government’s mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
"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,” John Gilmour, MHL's chief executive officer said in the press release.
Researchers say the study may also be useful for the government in its decision-making to control the spread of the virus and in creating new policy.
Participants in the study will be tested for COVID-19 before leaving the airport and will supply two additional samples that will be self-collected seven and 14 days after their arrival, coinciding with the government’s quarantine period.
The samples will be analyzed for the virus at the Research Institute of St. Joe's Hamilton and participants will be notified electronically of their first results within 48 hours.
Air Canada says travellers are invited to participate in the study on a “strictly voluntary basis” and all data collected will remain confidential.
Currently, Air Canada customers are required to have their temperatures checked before boarding a flight and must wear face coverings onboard.
The airline said it’s hoping the study might lead to alternatives to flight restrictions and mandatory quarantine periods.
"Air Canada believes that issues arising from COVID-19 related to travel can be safely managed using a science-based approach,” Dr. Jim Chung, chief medical officer at Air Canada said in a statement. “The study performed by MHL, whose team has years of infectious disease academic research experience, should improve the understanding of the prevalence of COVID-19 among travellers so that safety measures implemented are proportionate to the actual risk."
An independent data analysis of the samples collected will also be conducted at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
McMaster HealthLabs is a non-profit group composed of scientists and doctors from McMaster University, the Research Institute of St. Joe's Hamilton, and other Canadian universities. The group says it is “focused on curbing the human, economic and social costs of COVID-19 by creating scientific research initiatives that help Canadian leaders make evidence-based decisions.”