Hopes have been raised that a 14-day quarantine on arrival in Canada could be replaced by Covid testing.

A joint initiative for a pilot project to test international and trans-border travellers arriving in Alberta in western Canada has been announced by federal and provincial authorities.

The development follows Air Canada running a study on testing at Toronto Pearson airport in September.

Partner McMaster HealthLabs (MHL) has conducted more than 28,000 tests on arriving travellers who volunteered to participate. 

Over 99% tested negative for Covid-19 with less than 1% having indicated the virus.

The research “continues to yield results that demonstrate the validity of testing as a means to ease travel restrictions and quarantine requirements,” according to the airline.

President and chief executive Calin Rovinescu said: “We know Canadians expect the rich data from these test results to lead to a loosening of the federal government’s quarantine requirements immediately, which will allow families to reunite and the economy to resume.

“Our customer surveys clearly show that Canadians favour safe and science-based alternatives to blanket quarantines.

“The results from the McMaster study at Toronto-Pearson were instrumental in guiding the federal government and public health agencies to add the easing of quarantine to this latest testing initiative.

“I have personally heard from numerous business leaders in Canada and from other countries who are very anxious to see the quarantine requirements safely abridged as soon as possible.”

Air Canada chief medical officer Dr Jim Chung added: “The preliminary results from the MHL study provide evidence that testing passengers on arrival into Canada may be an effective way to screen for Covid-19.

“The data has provided the federal government and the government of Alberta with the confidence to move forward with this new testing initiative.

“In fact, Alberta premier Jason Kenney thanked Air Canada for helping advocate for measures to safely reduce quarantine, which is an encouraging step in the continued push for a secure resumption of air travel.

“Rapid testing is also a means to enable governments to relax current blanket travel restrictions and quarantines in a measured way while still safeguarding the health and safety of the public.”