The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) this week announced a robust new COVID-19 PCR and antigen testing research program at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ).

The new program, supported in part by funding from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), begins March 1, and it is designed to explore the efficacy of antigen testing, compared with the rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, in a high-throughput, commercial environment, including airports.

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. Clinical analysis of tests 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.

“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, GTAA president and CEO. “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.”

A second study at YYZ will run in parallel to the federally funded study to compare antigen and rapid PCR tests and explore the viability of frequent antigen testing within a workforce as a method to quickly identify, trace and isolate COVID-19. 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.