Expediated COVID-19 airport testing set to launch February in Edmonton

Edmonton International Airport is two weeks away from launching the same COVID-19 testing pilot program that is already in place in Calgary.

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The expediated testing program initially launched at the Calgary International Airport and at the Coutts border crossing in November.

“We’re told that [the expediated testing] will be rolled out in Edmonton Feb. 1,” Steve Maybee, the vice-president of operations and infrastructure at Edmonton International Airport, said on Monday.

“We’re working with the government now and Alberta Health Services with that implementation.”

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The program offers Canadians the option of getting a test when they arrive. They must then self-isolate for 24 to 48 hours while they wait for the results.

If the results are negative, they can leave quarantine, but must monitor for symptoms daily and get a second swab within six to seven days of their arrival date. Participating in the program cuts down the mandatory 14-day quarantine, if a passenger tests negative.

Read more: ‘She just had a negative test’: COVID-19 hits family hard after expedited test at Calgary airport

Maybee said as numbers at the airport remain low, he believes the testing will help more people be comfortable with the idea of safer travel.

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“That testing is important. It’s about the safety of passengers, safety of travellers when they need to travel,” he said. “So we need those programs in place to do it safely.”

The final passenger numbers from 2020 aren’t officially in for the airport yet, but Maybee said estimates are low.

“We’re roughly going to be 66 per cent down from year over year. Which, that’s about a six million passenger drop for what we would normally have.”

Click to play video 'Slow holiday travel season at Edmonton International Airport' Slow holiday travel season at Edmonton International Airport

Slow holiday travel season at Edmonton International Airport – Dec 18, 2020

He added that airport officials aren’t expecting to see any increases until late 2021.

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“We’re thinking late third quarter, fourth quarter before we start to see any type of increase,” he said. “We really need the vaccine wider spread… we really don’t see that happening until later in the year.”

Read more: Calgary’s COVID-19 airport pilot program could expand to Edmonton

In mid-December, the province said 14,382 passengers were tested in Calgary and Coutts. Of those tested, 1.4 per cent were positive with the initial swab. After the second test, the infection rate was 0.7 per cent.

–With files from The Canadian Press

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