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AC partners with McMaster HealthLabs & GTAA on Volunteer COVID Testing at YYZ

AC partners with McMaster HealthLabs & GTAA on Volunteer COVID Testing at YYZ

Old Sep 3, 20, 12:41 pm
  #1  
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AC partners with McMaster HealthLabs & GTAA on Volunteer COVID Testing at YYZ

A great initiative!!
https://aircanada.mediaroom.com/2020...nal-Travellers
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Old Sep 3, 20, 1:31 pm
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Interesting.

Kind of self-selecting, but maybe of a procedural exploration than anything else.
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Old Sep 3, 20, 1:36 pm
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McMaster HealthLabs, Air Canada and Greater Toronto Airports Authority to Conduct a Voluntary COVID-19 Study of Arriving International Travellers

TORONTO, Sept. 3, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ - McMaster HealthLabs (MHL), Air Canada and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) today announced that they will partner on a voluntary COVID-19 study of international travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport. The study's core purpose is to gather information to explore the effectiveness of various quarantine periods for travellers. MHL is a non-profit organization that develops COVID-19 research initiatives and testing solutions to accelerate business recovery during the pandemic.

"MHL's team of scientists and doctors from McMaster University, the Research Institute of St. Joseph's Hamilton, and other Canadian universities and research organizations, generates scientific COVID-19 data to keep Canadians safe and to support a strong economy," 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. 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."

"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.

"Air Canada believes that issues arising from COVID-19 related to travel can be safely managed using a science-based approach. 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."

Air Canada has been at the forefront of the airline industry in responding to COVID-19, including being among the first carriers globally to require customer face coverings onboard and the first airline in the Americas to take customers' temperatures prior to boarding. In May it introduced a comprehensive program, Air Canada CleanCare+, to apply industry leading biosafety measures at each stage of the journey.

"The Greater Toronto Airports Authority is committed to a science-based approach that prioritizes the health and wellbeing of passengers and airport workers. That starts with the collection and analysis of data, led by McMaster HealthLabs through their travel study," said Deborah Flint, President and CEO, GTAA. "We are pleased to co-sponsor this critically important work with Air Canada and welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with the Government of Canada on this and other initiatives to support the safe resumption of international travel."

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.

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."

"Having scientific data to support decision-making about COVID-19 is critical to keeping Canadians safe as we work to get the economy moving," said Dr. Vivek Goel, co-principal investigator of the MHL study, professor at the University of Toronto and a former CEO of Public Health Ontario.

Under the study:
  • Beginning Sept.3, international travellers arriving at Toronto-Pearson Terminal 1 will be invited to take part in the study on a strictly voluntary basis after providing informed consent.
  • Consenting participants will provide a sample to MHL researchers before leaving the airport and supply two additional samples that will be self-collected seven and fourteen days after arrival, coinciding with the federal government's quarantine period.
  • MHL will have samples analysed for COVID-19 at the Research Institute of St. Joe's Hamilton using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.
  • Participants will be notified electronically of the first results within 48 hours. Data collected will remain confidential and will be anonymously aggregated for the purpose of the study.
  • An independent data analysis will be conducted at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto under the supervision of the Principal Investigators who will have responsibility for publishing the results in peer reviewed journals and for supporting MHL in broadly sharing the study's findings.
For more information please see: mcmasterhealthlabs.ca
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Old Sep 3, 20, 3:18 pm
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Originally Posted by Bohemian1 View Post
Interesting.

Kind of self-selecting, but maybe of a procedural exploration than anything else.
Not necessarily self-selecting, if the outcome is your choice to do a 14 day quarantine, OR a PCR test in exchange for shortened quarantine (at least till the result is available).
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Old Sep 3, 20, 4:18 pm
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Originally Posted by ericw View Post
Not necessarily self-selecting, if the outcome is your choice to do a 14 day quarantine, OR a PCR test in exchange for shortened quarantine (at least till the result is available).
But that's not the choice.

It's do 3 tests and a 14 day quarantine, or do no tests and a 14 day quarantine.

If I fly into YYZ at end of month I'll do the tests, because I think the RESULTS may help reduce the 14 day quarantine, but that's what AC is trying to do - gather data to make a compelling argument to reduce or eliminate the quarantine.
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Old Sep 3, 20, 4:30 pm
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Originally Posted by canadiancow View Post
But that's not the choice.

It's do 3 tests and a 14 day quarantine, or do no tests and a 14 day quarantine.

If I fly into YYZ at end of month I'll do the tests, because I think the RESULTS may help reduce the 14 day quarantine, but that's what AC is trying to do - gather data to make a compelling argument to reduce or eliminate the quarantine.
Agreed. I probably will do it too when I return from CUN late September ~ just for my own peace of mind. I WFH these days so 14 day quarantine doesn't bother me much.
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Old Sep 3, 20, 4:45 pm
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Great initiative but quite sad that the airline has to convince the government to let it operate.

The federal government should be the one looking at ideas and possibilities to carefully restart international travel. There's no evidence they're making any effort to reopen. The blanket restrictions and quarantine rules we have today are just lazy.
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Old Sep 3, 20, 9:20 pm
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Picture taken today. Was part of the clean care packages.
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Old Sep 3, 20, 10:26 pm
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AC issues a press release on the same day as the study begins and has cards ready to go in in-flight packets? Isn't SOP to issue a PR well in advance of study start date and cards going into packets promoting it? The timing seems so well coordinated.
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Old Sep 4, 20, 2:06 am
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20% off makes me want to fly in via YYZ regardless of where I actually want to go
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Old Sep 4, 20, 10:17 am
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Good initiative but I don't think that will help to change the government approach for the 14 days quarantine. The government couldn't care less about the facts (otherwise, how could one explains that the rules are exactly the same no matter where you come from, if the origin has 10 times less cases or 20 times more cases than in Canada). They are going to keep the 14 days quarantine anyway because 1- they want to discourage travel as much as possible and 2- they want to show they are tough on travelers (since most Canadians don't travel internationally I am pretty sure a majority of people agree with the 14 days quarantine - basic politics).
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Old Sep 4, 20, 10:23 am
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Testing is a desperate attempt to save what remains of the industry, to keep it alive until Q2 2021 when a recovery is expected to start.
It appears that some people are unaware of the ongoing problem with the constant arrival of infected people on passenger flights into Canada. The airlines have a growing PR crisis. Maybe it is because the issue has not been highlighted or some do not wish to acknowledge that the airlines deliver new infections to Canada. IMO, if the general public was aware of the extent of the issue, there would be pressure to further curtail international air travel. The impact on domestic air travel would probably kill the industry. How many people on this forum look at the data? It is sobering if just the past week or two are considered for Air Canada.

.International Air Canada flights with confirmed COVID-19 cases (Includes Air India code share)

Flight Departing Destination Flight date Affected rows
AC821 Athens (ATH) (YYZ) 8/20/2020 25 to 30
AC8491 Washington (DCA) (YYZ) 8/23/2020 Unknown
AC1255 Kingston (KIN) (YYZ) 8/24/2020 4 and 12 to 15
AC835 Geneva (GVA) (YUL) 8/26/2020 19 to 25
AC949 Pointe-a-Pitre (PTP) (YUL) 8/22/2020 16 to 22
AC873 Frankfurt (FRA) (YYZ) 8/21/2020 31 to 37
AC 847 Munich (MUC) (YYZ) 8/26/2020 25 to 31
AC849 London (LHR) (YYZ) 8/26/2020 Unknown
AC1255 Kingston (KIN) (YYZ) 8/26/2020 19 to 26
AC43 Delhi (DEL) (YYZ) 8/20/2020 15 to 21
AC992 Mexico City (MEX) (YYZ) 8/22/2020 20 to 26
AI187 Delhi (DEL) (YYZ) 8/23/2020 30 to 36 and 43 to 49
AI1143 New Delhi (DEL) (YVR) 8/26/2020 36 to 42
Source: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-heal...html#wb-auto-5

- The Federal government has not been forthcoming on the situation.
- Keep in mind that there is not a unified, common test and track program in Canada. When an airline passenger is identified as exposed, the federal public health authorities DO NOT advise the passenger to be tested. Health care is a closely guarded provincial mandate and it is a provincial responsibility.
- The voluntary isolation requirement efficacy is unproven.

The situation is just as serious on domestic routes. The number of infected people flying around Canada is too large to show. Here is an indication of just the impact for one province, British Columbia since the start of the pandemic.

http://www.bccdc.ca/Health-Info-Site...es-Current.pdf

One of the worst kept secrets in the airline industry is that the voluntary isolation measures are not working in Canada and that the airline screening measures are ineffective. Air Canada is running out of time to restore consumer confidence. The testing program is a desperate attempt to protect what remains of the business.
If the testing can be shown effective then a key the obstacle to reopening for winter holidays will be removed and negative press like this will be avoided;
https://fortune.com/2020/06/24/airli...rus-infection/
https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/more-plan...from-1.5076714
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Old Sep 4, 20, 10:35 am
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Well, there are more cases linked to a single karaoke bar in Quebec than in all international flights during the last two weeks... This is why we need science based facts on: 1- what is the risk a traveler carry the virus compared to the random person in the street and 2- what is the risk to be infected during a flight compared to day to day activities (for this one, it looks pretty low from what I read until now - probably because of the mandatory masks, some health checks even if they are incomplete, and filtering of the air in the cabin).
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Old Sep 4, 20, 10:38 am
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Originally Posted by Transpacificflyer View Post
One of the worst kept secrets in the airline industry is that the voluntary isolation measures are not working in Canada
It is not voluntary, it is mandatory, although it is a self-isolation generally at home so it is possible it is not respected by everyone.
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Old Sep 4, 20, 11:00 am
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Originally Posted by Transpacificflyer View Post
It appears that some people are unaware of the ongoing problem with the constant arrival of infected people on passenger flights into Canada. The airlines have a growing PR crisis. Maybe it is because the issue has not been highlighted or some do not wish to acknowledge that the airlines deliver new infections to Canada. IMO, if the general public was aware of the extent of the issue, there would be pressure to further curtail international air travel.
At this point, COVID has visited, and remains in almost every country including Canada. It is either endemic, or well on the way to becoming so. If one looks at cases (which are incredibly decoupled from actual harm such as hospitization, ICU entry, and death), one sees continual case rebounds as soon as a nation increases social interaction to reduce the other kind of harm (economic damage, losing homes, not being able to feed children, etc).

The average age of hospitalization is 70+, and average age of death is 80+ -- the vulnerable community has been identified in many retrospective studies (all this talk about comorbidities is not junk science). The root "social cause" of harm is transmission to the vulnerable. So we can ask -- are recent flyers passing COVID directly in one step (or indirectly in only a few degrees) to the vulnerable? Or is it more likely old age homes cases are coming from well-established community transmission (care workers and non-flying visiting family).

My second question would be: Are the % of infected passengers on flights arriving into Canada really greater than the % of infected in the general population -- of the departure country, or within Canada? Are the flyers a large component of new case loads?

I am pretty sure travel between international communities is no longer a major factor in case loads, hospitalizations, re-transmission, or death. I recently saw some stats for a country, that travel-related COVID had dropped under 1% of case load [CBC: https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/can...tial-1.5710005 : "In February, 42.2 per cent of COVID-19 cases were associated with international travel. That number dropped to a low of 0.4 per cent in May, and has since inched up to 3.2 per cent for the first three weeks of August.."] So the article is saying 96.8% of cases are transmission in the Canadian community, unrelated to flyers.

COVID is already in Alberta. When someone carries it from Vancouver or Paris, really -- what's the difference? Especially if they are a Canadian and their return home cannot be blocked. Is Air Canada supposed to park planes for a year?

Canada isn't in the same position as NZ. It's worth noting South Korea and Australia tried a model similar to NZ, and are discovering a population with .00001% COVID soon has more, and the current cases in Melbourne are not people who flew in. The cat is out of the bag.

The current best practice is for vulnerable people to isolate themselves from the community, especially from flyers or meat-packers or churchgoers... and please no singing on planes.

Last edited by mountainboy; Sep 4, 20 at 11:46 am Reason: found an article to quote
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