Organizations representing airports and airlines, including the International Air Transport Association (IATA), are calling for rapid COVID-19 testing for passengers at airports as an alternative to quarantine measures or bans on international travel.
“The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic COVID-19 testing of all travelers before departure, said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “This will give governments the confidence to open their borders without complicated risk models that see constant changes in the rules imposed on travel,” he adds.
Most groups are calling for some sort of government agency or coordination for this tests. But in the meantime, airports and airlines are coming up with testing programs on their own.
United Airlines’ offering COVID-19 tests for Hawaii-bound passengers. Brace for the fee.
Starting October 15, customers traveling on United Airlines flights from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Hawaii will be able to take either a rapid COVID-19 test at the airport or a self-administered mail-in test at home.
This pilot program is timely and welcome because both residents and visitors arriving from out-of-state to Hawaii are still subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine. But starting October 15, arriving travelers will be exempt from the quarantine if they have written confirmation of a negative test result secured within 72 hours from their final leg of their departure.
How will the tests work and what will they cost?
The test at SFO airport will be a rapid Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test administered by GoHealth Urgent Care and partner Dignity Health. Passengers can make an appointment at the testing site in the international terminal on the day of their flight. Testing site hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
The cost is $250. Certainly not cheap. But results should be available in about 15 minutes.
The mail-in test option is less expensive – $80, plus shipping. Still not cheap. This test is offered by a company named Color. They recommend customers order the test kit at least 10 days before their trip so they can send in a sample at least 72 hours before they fly. Results are delivered via email or text.
COVID-19 Testing by Dog
Meanwhile, Finland’s Helsinki Airport now has a team of specially-trained dogs on duty whose job it is to sniff out passengers who may be infected with COVID-19.
Tests conducted by University of Helsinki find that dogs can smell the COVID-19 virus with almost 100% certainty, according to a statement from the airport. The trained dogs can also identify the virus days before the symptoms have even started and from a much smaller sample than tests used by other methods.
“The difference is massive, as a dog only needs 10-100 molecules to identify the virus, whereas test equipment requires 18,000,000.”