Canada’s last remaining COVID-19 travel restrictions were dropped Oct. 1, with much give attention to ArriveCAN, which isn’t any longer mandatory for cross-border air travellers.
What’s been lost within the discussion is how much pandemic-fighting technology is getting plugged in at airports in Canada and around the globe. While airports aren’t any longer the scene of quarantines and mass testing, they’ve turn out to be unexpected partners with governments and public-health authorities — sentinels, for those who will, in the trouble to watch infection and inform public policy.
That has meant investing in smarter, less intrusive technologies — lots of them made in Canada — and applying them proactively to maintain travel each healthy and secure. This is very essential as cold weather returns and public health officials look ahead to signs of COVID variants that may evade immunity, as chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam told Parliament recently.
When the pandemic began in early 2020, without the good thing about today’s understanding and vaccines, government quickly moved to show airports into virus filters. Their intent was to maintain us secure, so that they took firm motion. But it surely has since turn out to be clear that even those measures couldn’t keep Canada virus-free.
“If 99 per cent of all of your infections are being generated domestically, the relative utility of traveller screening is marginal,” says Kamran Khan, an infectious-diseases physician and professor on the University of Toronto. “It’s sort of like attempting to block embers from landing in a raging fire. Stopping importation altogether will not be a sensible goal, especially in a rustic like Canada, which is so interconnected with the remainder of the world.”
Khan is quoted in a latest Innovation Economy Council report, “From Gateways to Sentinels: How Airports Can Use Detection to Control Infection,” written by medical science and health reporter Carolyn Abraham. The report concludes that, reasonably than attempting to block pathogens, airports can play a very important role in monitoring them. As hubs for the movement of individuals and goods, they’re best suited to testing latest technologies, sharing information and informing public-health policy.
Some policymakers can have been slow to see that the initial COVID measures weren’t working, but others, including the Public Health Agency of Canada, have taken up that innovation challenge. They’ve proven themselves willing to experiment with exciting latest tools and methods to assist airports meet future threats.
Canadian technology corporations have also joined the fight. They increasingly see airports as ideal testing grounds for tech starting from biosensor devices to air-filtration methods to healthier constructing designs. And as Canada’s airports return to full capability, they’re generating vast amounts of information. These developments might help public health officials make smarter, more timely decisions.
Consider the brand new measures as early-warning systems reasonably than closed gates. For instance, Toronto Pearson is now partnering with Khan’s company, BlueDot. The Toronto-based start-up uses artificial intelligence to sift through news reports, animal and plant disease networks, official announcements and airline ticketing data in a wide selection of nations and languages to predict the situation of the following major outbreaks.
Pearson can be amongst a bunch of international airports — including Germany’s Frankfurt Airport and France’s Marseille Provence Airport — which might be combining the most recent genome-sequencing with sewage sampling to check wastewater for pathogens.
Pearson launched its program in January, aiming to detect latest variants of COVID and other pathogens on the border. In addition they recently kicked off a wastewater innovation study, working with and funded by the National Research Council of Canada, the Industrial Research Assistance Program and three Canadian health technology corporations. The goal is to explore various sorts of sewage surveillance tests for each COVID-19 and monkeypox.
One in all the businesses is LuminUltra, which was chosen by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to supply wastewater testing as a part of the CDC’s National Wastewater Surveillance System. At Pearson, the Latest Brunswick-based company is using digital droplet PCR technology, which quantifies and amplifies genetic traces of the microbes that will be present in a drop of wastewater. One other company in this system is Kraken Sense, which develops rapid pathogen-detection technology that uses microfluidics and nanotechnology to disclose bacterial or viral contamination in water sources.
After which there’s testing, a choke point for airports. One other promising technology comes from a Toronto-based data analytics company called ISBRG Corp. ISBRG’s device, called Highlight-19, is designed to detect COVID infection noninvasively, by scanning a traveller’s fingertip. The corporate’s website says the non-invasive test costs about $1 and takes lower than a minute to supply a result, making it well-suited for screening large numbers of individuals in well-populated venues — especially airports — with few delays or disruptions. It’s currently under review by Health Canada.
The character of COVID-19 has modified significantly since early 2020, but so has our understanding about how best to contain it and whatever else might come next. Just like the coronavirus, the technologies available are evolving. For airports, borders and travel hubs, the job is to make the very best possible use of them to maintain Canadians secure.