VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Vancouver International Airport has put in many safety protocols since the start of the pandemic and is now piloting a new COVID-19 test, according to the new CEO of the organization that manages it.
“We’ve put many, many changes and protocols in place around temperature checks, around masks, around screening and around spacing, but we think this is one more layer,” Tamara Vrooman said of the new test.
A pilot project using the new test will start at YVR in the fall on select WestJet flights. Many details of the test and pilot, including how long tests will take or where they will be performed, have yet to be released.
“The test that is currently licensed by the federal government requires 24 hours. We’re looking at all of that and making sure that we choose one that has the best efficacy,” she said.
On Friday, the WestJet Group implemented a policy that makes wearing masks on flights mandatory, while agreeing to share passenger information with health officials to assist in COVID-19 contact tracing.
The airline says, starting Sept. 1, that refusal to wear a mask onboard one of its flights by passengers over the age of two will be managed through a three-step process.
Passengers will first be asked to put a mask on in a discussion with cabin crew, then given a warning that masks are required and compliance is necessary.
If passengers continue to refuse, WestJet says it will result in a follow-up notification that they will be placed on a no-fly list for travel on any WestJet Group aircraft for 12 months.
The WestJet Group includes WestJet, WestJet Encore, WestJet Link and Swoop.
Passengers have been required to wear a mask during travel since April to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said WestJet is the first airline to agree to make contact tracing for their customers as easy as it is in B.C. restaurants.
“What they responded to today on contact tracing is what we asked for,” Dix said of WestJet. “That will be, in some ways, the federal government’s job to implement. But we’re hoping Air Canada and others respond positively. When you asked someone to do something and they do it, you acknowledge that and you appreciate that.”
Air Canada confirmed it has requested customer contact information since before the pandemic, first when passengers purchase tickets online and again during check-in.
“We also provide the information we obtain from passengers readily with any public health authority when they request it as part of the effort to combat infectious diseases, including COVID-19,” the airline says in an email.
Also Friday, the federal government extended COVID-19 restrictions on international travel until Sept. 30.
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