Panel examines ways to detect COVID-19 at airports ahead of winter travel season – Canada News
Photo: The Canadian Press
A woman walks through Pearson International Airport in Toronto on March 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
As the winter travel season approaches, researchers are looking to use artificial intelligence and surveillance technologies at Canadian airports to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Almost six weeks ago, the Canadian government lifted pandemic travel restrictions, lifting vaccine and mask mandates.
However, as the flu season begins to ramp up and the BQ1.1 variant of COVID-19 spreads, the question of how to limit transmission through airports remains as the holiday travel season approaches.
The Innovation Economy Council tries to answer that question in its latest report and discussed its findings in a panel discussion on Wednesday.
Panel members discussed using wastewater surveillance to rapidly test for viruses, including BQ variant 1.1 and monkeypox.
Wastewater detection has become key to tracking the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic and has been running as part of a pilot program by the Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) since January.
The pilot project collects sewage samples from planes landing at Pearson International Airport to help experts look for new strains of COVID-19, identifying the spread earlier than with traditional tests.
One of the biggest benefits of wastewater monitoring is that it’s economic and that it can test for specific variants of COVID-19, said Robert Delatolla, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Ottawa.
During the panel, Dwayne Macintosh, director of safety and security at Pearson, also discussed Spotlight 19, a technology that uses infrared light through the tip of a finger to determine whether it is infected with COVID-19.
Spotlight 19, developed by ISBRG, a Toronto-based data analytics company, is still awaiting approval from Health Canada and would be used if mandatory COVID-19 testing is returned, the GTAA said.
“Imagine getting a result within 10 to 20 seconds of being tested for COVID-19,” Macintosh said.
Kamran Kahn, CEO of BlueDot, said in the report that any new approach to detect or monitor COVID-19 or other microbes must be closely and continuously evaluated to ensure the ends justify the means.
He said precautions are easy to take, but harder to ignore.
Ultimately, we can continue researching solutions to prevent the continued spread of viruses like COVID-19, from physical distancing, Macintosh said.
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