TORONTO — The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) is embarking on a new COVID-19 PCR and antigen testing research program at Toronto Pearson.
Effective March 1, the project is designed to explore the efficacy of antigen testing, compared with the rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, in a high-throughput, commercial environment, says the GTAA.
The research will also analyze the operationalization of rapid PCR testing in an airport environment.
The GTAA says that throughout Toronto Pearson’s Healthy Airport transformation, the GTAA has remained committed to a science and data-driven approach, guided by experts in healthcare, diagnostic testing, public health, and industry.
“The GTAA continues to demonstrate its commitment and leadership in the exploration of the science of COVID-19 testing. Science is at the heart of our Healthy Airport commitment and we are pleased to receive this support from NRC IRAP on this additional testing program, as we pursue further innovation here at Toronto Pearson,” said Deborah Flint, President and CEO, GTAA.
“This research will contribute substantial new scientific data to the body of knowledge used to fight this disease by improving access to testing that will identify, trace and isolate COVID-19,” she added.
The project marks the creation of new point-of-need testing capacity at the airport. The GTAA says it will work with a team of Canadian healthcare companies to run a 10-week antigen test study at Toronto Pearson. The study will make free COVID-19 tests available to employees, as well as testing for eligible passengers on select routes who are willing to volunteer as participants.
The study will begin accepting volunteers on March 1.
Clinical analysis of test swabs will take place on-site at the airport, with results provided to the participant within two hours.
Participants will also be tested using Response Biomedical rapid antigen tests.
A second study will run in parallel to the federally funded study to compare antigen and rapid PCR tests. The second research stream, the Workplace Antigen Testing Study, will explore the viability of frequent antigen testing within a workforce as a method to quickly identify, trace and isolate COVID-19.
The new research projects are the latest programs the GTAA has helped to lead, advancing the cause of COVID-19 testing and research. In September 2020, the GTAA co-sponsored the globally recognized McMaster HealthLabs International Border Study at Toronto Pearson. Interim results of that study have been instrumental in the continuing public policy discussion around arrivals testing as an effective protective layer against COVID-19, says the GTAA.