Canadians looking to travel outside of the country may avoid the hassle of coronavirus testing overseas thanks to a new program offered through Air Canada.
Canada's largest airline announced Monday (Oct. 25) that it will offer new COVID-19 self-testing products through Switch Health, a Canadian-based healthcare company.
Customers may use the portable self-administered COVID-19 molecular and antigen test kits while travelling abroad to avoid the hassle of finding clinics.
Currently, all Canadians five years of age or older must provide proof of a negative molecular test to return to the country. Screening tests for work or travel are not covered by public health services.
But it's not just re-entry to Canada that residents need to be concerned about. Most countries around the world require travellers to present a negative test result, regardless of vaccination status, in order to enter the country. However, not all countries require a molecular test; some of them, including the United States, will accept the rapid antigen test.
Now, travellers flying with Air Canada may use the new portable self-administered test kit, officially called the Switch Health RT-LAMP Test Kit, without the need to visit a foreign testing facility.
"Together with Switch Health, we are pleased to offer our customers the most comprehensive range of travel testing options that will make travelling abroad easier and more predictable," said Mark Nasr, Senior Vice President, Products Marketing & eCommerce at Air Canada.
"Switch Health also seamlessly integrates into Air Canada's digital tool allowing customers to securely submit their COVID-19 test results and records of vaccination, further simplifying the travel experience."
The testing kits are also available through the company direct for travellers hoping to use them to cross the land border or with another airline.
How much will the self-testing kits cost?
Air Canada notes that Aeroplan Members will have exclusive access to preferred pricing on all Switch Health testing products. Members have preferred pricing for the portable antigen test kit starting at $79 plus applicable taxes (one kit includes two tests), and the portable RT-LAMP test kit starting at $149 plus applicable taxes.
Aeroplan Members can also redeem their Aeroplan points to cover the cost of the test kits.
Free standard shipping is included in the price of delivery. Express outbound shipping (one to three days) is available for an additional $15.
How long will the test take to process?
Results for the RT-LAMP or Rapid Antigen Test Kit will be available within 45 minutes of uploading your result reading into ASMO.
The tests are conducted under the remote supervision of a Telehealth professional from Switch Health and include an electronic report suitable for travel. Switch Health telehealth is available 24/7.
The Rapid Antigen test kit can be used anywhere in the world but requires access to the internet and a mobile device to complete the tests.
According to Switch Health, the RT-LAMP test kits are Rapid Molecular tests but not lab-based Molecular tests. "The RT-LAMP test kits meet the requirements for entry set out by the Government of Canada. The RT-LAMP test kit can be used anywhere in the world but requires access to the internet and a mobile device to complete the tests."
Special considerations for Canadians abroad
Travellers must also check the requirements for the country they are entering as Switch Health and Air Canada do not provide advice on specific testing requirements.
Many countries around the world now allow fully vaccinated Canadians to skip quarantine but some are entertaining the idea of implementing an expiration date on when travellers received their vaccines.
Starting Oct. 30, all travellers from Canadian airports, and travellers on VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains must be fully vaccinated. That said, there will be a grace period where they may show a valid COVID-19 molecular test within 72 hours of travel as an alternative to providing proof of full vaccination. However, starting Nov. 30, travellers who have not started the vaccination process may risk not qualifying.
Find out more information about Air Canada's testing program with Switch Health.