GTAA rolling out new COVID-19 testing and research program at Pearson Airport in Mississauga


Published February 24, 2021 at 5:06 pm

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The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) announced that it’s launching a new COVID-19 PCR and antigen testing research program at Toronto Pearson Airport in Mississauga.

In a news release, the GTAA said the program is designed to explore the efficacy of antigen testing compared with the rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test in a commercial environment. It will also examine the operationalization of rapid PCR testing in an airport environment.

The GTAA says the findings of this study may have application in other settings, including schools and workplaces.

The program, which starts on March 1, is supported in part by funding from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP). 

“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, in a statement. 

“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.”

The GTAA says it will work with a team of Canadian healthcare companies to run a ten-week antigen test study at 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 using LuminUltra’s rapid PCR test, with results provided to the participant within two hours. Participants will also be tested using Response Biomedical rapid antigen tests.

The GTAA says these three streams of COVID-19 testing research will be studied as part of this program.

Departing Passengers:

  • Research funding provided to study antigen result comparison to rapid PCR result
  • Test operationalization of rapid PCR testing in an airport environment​
  • Support routes that have destination entry requirements of a negative PCR test
  • Support provincial and local public health COVID-19 case management​
  • Who can be tested: internationally departing passengers who need to show proof of a 
  • COVID-19 test to enter their destination country

Airport Workers:

  • Research funding provided to study antigen result comparison to rapid PCR result
  • Assess the ability to operationalize rapid testing ​
  • Reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace​​
  • Reduce lost time of testing asymptomatic employees
  • Support provincial and local public health COVID-19 case management​​​​
  • Who can be tested: all airport workers

Workplace Antigen Study

  • University epidemiologists brought on board to study efficacy of antigen testing workplace screening program
  • Determine the benefits of regular antigen testing to create a strong workplace testing program​
  • Reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace​​
  • Early identification of employees with COVID​-19
  • Assess Antigen tests in the workplace environment using Panbio tests
  • Who can participate: all airport workers

The GTAA says that for airport workers, many of whom live near the airport, taking part in this research will help to identify, trace and isolate COVID-19 at work and at home. 

“The GTAA is one of the City of Mississauga’s strongest partners and this study demonstrates its strong commitment to protecting the thousands of Mississauga residents who work at Pearson, as well as their families,” said Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie in a statement. 

“What makes this study particularly important is that its findings could be applicable to other work settings, not only in Mississauga but across Ontario and the entire country. This is yet another example of the GTAA being on the cutting edge of innovation and community safety. I want to thank the GTAA, as well as the Government of Canada, for launching this timely study at Pearson and the Government of Ontario for providing rapid tests.”

A second study, 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 GTAA says that by testing multiple times per week over multiple weeks, researchers will be able to study how frequent use of antigen tests can improve workplace safety by reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19. The study will use Abbot’s Panbio rapid antigen test, provided by the province, to conduct this research. 

The Workplace Antigen Testing Study will recruit volunteer participants from Toronto Pearson’s airport worker community. Participants will receive multiple antigen tests per week for a period of approximately eight weeks.

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