private covid tests

Travel Testing Requirements change

Travel Testing Requirements change

Travel Testing Requirements change

If you are fully vaccinated and want to travel internationally – things got a little easier today. Canada is dropping it’s PCR test requirement and opting for rapid antigen tests instead. We talk about what to expect with the changes.

Gloria:
Well, here we are traveling internationally is now a little bit easier for Canadians. Starting today, fully vaccinated people are no longer required to take a PCR test to cross borders. Instead, they can take a rapid antigen test, which is generally much cheaper and much more convenient. Well with us now is Graham Williamson. Graham is the CEO of CVM Medical. They offer pre-flight rapid antigen testing at Vancouver International Airport for those traveling to the U.S. Graham, hello there. Good morning.

Graham Williamson:

Good morning, Gloria. How are you this morning?

Gloria:

I am doing very well. Interesting to follow all of these developments. And things can pretty confusing for people when COVID rules change. What do prospective travelers need to know about testing starting today?

Graham Williamson:

Well, you’re absolutely correct. The rules are very difficult to understand even being in the COVID testing business as a traveler. Sometimes it’s difficult to discern the ever-changing rules for the jurisdictions. But the great news is as of today, we have harmonization with the United States. So if you’re off on a holiday, if you’re heading, say down to Phoenix, Yuma, Palm Springs, departing Vancouver today, or Calgary or Toronto, the test you need, and the process you follow today is going to be the same one that you’ll use to fly home when you’re done your trip. So, that’s great news. We’re very excited about that.

Gloria:

Okay. And what about this change? What would’ve been the difference? Just give us an idea, the difference between the PCR and the rapid antigen, time and money involved?

Graham Williamson:

Yeah, absolutely. Both big factors. So the PCR test is very expensive. It has to be administered by a healthcare professional and then it goes to a lab. And these labs are often dual purpose. They serve public healthcare needs, hospital needs, as well as private testing. It can take sometimes up to 72 hours. And in fact, in the Omicron wave we saw that extend out as the labs got overwhelmed. So it’s a sample taken at an offsite location, 24, 48, 72 hours later it’s run through the lab by the technicians, and then reported back to you.

Graham Williamson:

But with the rapid antigen test done within 24 hours, that’s more of a, it’s called point-of-care or on-the-spot test. Whereas PCR testing is not widely available, and in fact we’ve seen it restricted because of being overwhelmed, the rapid antigen test allows you to get that done on the spot. The results are reported to you within 15 or 20 minutes. And in fact, with some telehealth options, you can even do a rapid antigen test with a nurse over say a Zoom call, and you’re on your way.

Graham Williamson:

So it’s great news for keeping the margin of safety that needs to remain intact for travel, to keep those flights safe. And to keep everyone on those flights protected. But at the same time, just allowing Canadians to travel home with a lot less expense, a lot less stress and a lot more ease.

Gloria:

Okay, well the rapid antigen test is going to be needed to be observed as you point out by a medical professional. Whether that could be over Zoom, that certainly makes it convenient. So how do you plan for that if you’re in a country that may not have these tests readily available?

Graham Williamson:

Yeah. So you can buy a rapid antigen test kit before you leave Canada, you can go online. There’s lots of websites out there that have access to the tests. Take a look at, say AirCanada.com, which has those solutions. WestJet has a testing solution.

Graham Williamson:

But the rapid antigen testing is prolific. It’s available virtually everywhere in the world right now. We’ve certainly encountered no concerns with any of our customers or travelers getting access to rapid antigen test. In fact, on the contrary, it’s difficulty accessing PCR testing is the issue. So they’re widely available. A quick Google search will connect you with these solutions.

Gloria:

Okay. I’m just saying, if you haven’t planned … Okay, please continue.

Graham Williamson:

Yeah. So if you haven’t planned for it and you didn’t bring a kit with you, they’re literally everywhere. And say in the United States, Mexico, they’re done in your hotel. So right before checkout, you head down to the concierge, most of the resorts in Mexico or the Caribbean, and they’ll have a nurse administer a rapid test right there. So you’re done breakfast, head over, take your rapid test, and get your results in your email. Head to the pool, have a great day, and you’re on your flight tomorrow morning. It’s really that easy.

Gloria:

But all rapid antigen tests are not created equal, isn’t that right? I mean, they’re giving them out at some drug stores right now across the region for people what, over the age of 70, I think, across British Columbia? But that would not be the antigen test that you would take with you. Is that it?

Graham Williamson:

Correct. Yep. That’s not the one. You can’t take those with you. The rapid antigen test that you need for travel specifically has to be administered by a healthcare professional. So that just means that either a healthcare professional is helping you with the test and doing it with you face-to-face at a clinic, say at the Vancouver International Airport before your flight. A nurse takes the swab and reports the results to you. You can do the same in the United States at most airports or again, in your resort in Mexico.

Graham Williamson:

But if you choose the telehealth option, you’re just doing that process with a nurse over a video call. But no, you’re absolutely right, you cannot buy say, a rapid antigen test or pick one up free at a pharmacy and do it yourself. And hand that over to the airline. It still has to be done by a medical professional and a certificate verifying and validating the results has to be issued. And the certificate has to have your name on it, the date of birth, the date and time of the test and the make and manufacturer of the test as well.

Gloria:

I see.

Graham Williamson:

So there’s still very stringent protocols that have to be followed.

Gloria:

And just how effective are rapid antigen tests compared to PCR tests?

Graham Williamson:

Very effective because they’re catching that infection within that first 24 to 36-hour window. I’m critical of the PCR testing for travel because under the rules yesterday or the 72-hours, if you stay down in Disneyland and you test yourself on a Wednesday and then head back into that crowd of 50,000 people for two and a half days, you have a huge exposure window. So it almost becomes somewhat irrelevant. And there’s that danger zone where within that 72 hours you’ve been exposed.

Graham Williamson:

But the rapid antigen test is picking it up right away. You’re saying, “Hey, it’s 6:00 on Friday afternoon, I’m testing. I have a 6:00 AM flight, and now it came back positive.” So it’s just creating a margin of safety for those that are traveling with you. So from that perspective, it’s far more effective.

Graham Williamson:

They say PCR testing is the gold standard. For sure. Is a PCR test more accurate than a rapid antigen test? Yes, it is. But it’s closing that window and getting those results within that 24-hour window, rather than the 72-hour window, which is the most important for travel.

Gloria:

I see. And, and just generally as we’re a few weeks away from spring break, what demand for testing are you anticipating now that the requirement for testing has changed?

Graham Williamson:

It’s already soaring. In fact, just before we connected this morning, I checked our bookings online and bookings are soaring. So you’re seeing airlines adding flights, WestJet’s adding capacity. Air Canada’s adding capacity. Europe’s adding capacity, and our bookings are soaring. So we’re getting ready for a different kind of wave, so to speak this time.

Gloria:

All right. Graham, nice to connect with you this morning. Thank you very much.

Graham Williamson:

Have a great day, Gloria. Take care. Bye.

Source: cbc.ca

Related Posts