Researchers roll out COVID-19 rapid test pilot project at YVR

·2 min read

A pilot project at Vancouver Airport (YVR) is enlisting volunteer travelers to take COVID-19 rapid tests before departing on their domestic flights.

The project is run jointly by UBC and Providence Health Care, and sponsored by YVR and WestJet, with the hope of figuring out if airport rapid testing is worthwhile.

YVR president and CEO Tamara Vrooman says the tests could eventually be deployed more broadly to give people better peace of mind when flying.

"With the second wave, we do know that many, many people are anxious about COVID if they have to travel. We think this is one other way to give them the confidence that they need," she said.

Travelers who volunteer for the project will stop in at the pod set up outside WestJet's domestic terminal check-in area.

There, they will have two samples taken: one from a nasopharyngeal (nose) swab and another through an oral rinse. Results will take 20 to 30 minutes.

The study is open to British Columbia residents between the ages of 19 and 80 who have not tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days.

Should a test come back positive, the participant becomes ineligible to fly and will have to undergo further Health Canada-approved testing to confirm the COVID-19 diagnosis, according to WestJet.


The airline says those individuals will receive an information pamphlet with details on how to rebook or cancel their flight at no charge.

According to Vrooman, the project will run for about three months and hopes to attract upwards of 1,200 participants.

Since the pandemic started, air travel has tanked around the world as travel restrictions came into place and people became unsettled by the physical proximity to others when flying on a plane.

Vrooman said YVR is currently operating with only 15 or 16 per cent of the number of passengers it had a year ago, most travelling on domestic flights.

She said ensuring passenger safety will be key in helping the industry rebound in the future.

Interested volunteers can sign up online or on-site at YVR.

WestJet says volunteers should allow two hours to participate in the study, although participation should only take 75 minutes.

Calgary and Toronto airports are also running COVID-19 rapid test pilot projects but on arriving passengers.