Rapid-testing project at YVR shows promise for future use in long-term care homes

·2 min read

A respirologist who is part of the COVID-19 rapid-testing pilot project at Vancouver International Airport says preliminary results show promise in deploying such testing at B.C.'s hard-hit long-term care homes.

The project at the airport has been running since late November. All departing passengers on WestJet domestic flights are invited to to take the rapid antigen test, which takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

Dr. Don Sin, a respirologist at St. Paul's Hospital and a professor at the University of British Columbia, said early results are promising.

"Based on what we've seen so far, I'm very optimistic. These tests, I think the data are suggesting that they're quite reliable. They're very fast to deploy, they're relatively inexpensive," said Sin on CBC's On The Coast.

Sin says 300 passengers have been tested. A positive test would mean the passenger is denied boarding and required to quarantine, but so far all the tests have been negative.

"We validated all of the tests with the standard tests that hospitals use to diagnose COVID. They're all negative," Sin said.

He did caution, however, that results for the airport project are still preliminary and more testing needs to be done before widespread use.

"I think we need to do more tests or more studies to understand some of the pitfalls," Sin said. Some of those pitfalls include the possibility of false negatives because the antigen test isn't as sensitive as other tests.

There are also rapid-testing pilot projects underway at a few long-term care homes in B.C.

Advocates have long called for rapid testing at long-term care homes, the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in the province.

"I am frustrated that time is marching on, outbreaks are continuing and deaths are rising. We do have some tools we could use," said Isobel Mackenzie, the province's seniors advocate.

"Every life has value and every life that can be saved from this virus, every attempt should be made."