SFO opens first COVID-19 rapid test site at airport in United States

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A sign directs airline and airport workers to SFO’s new coronavirus rapid test site in the international terminal.

A sign directs airline and airport employees to the new…

The first airport COVID-19 rapid test site in the United States has opened at San Francisco International to screen airline employees and flight crews, but not travelers – at least not yet.

SFO has partnered with Dignity Health-GoHealth Urgent Care to set up a testing site in the international terminal which is open daily for workers.

Technicians use an Abbott Labs machine, the size of a toaster oven, to analyze the samples obtained using a nasal swab. Abbott Labs said the device “amplifies RNA hundreds of millions of times to make the virus detectable – returning test results in 13 minutes or less.”

The program quietly launched in July, testing only flight crews. The airport and Dignity Health both want the site to be fully operational for employees before considering expanding the program beyond workers. The test site is located in a courtyard on the ground floor of the international terminal.

“SFO continues to take steps to protect the health and safety of our employees and our travelers,” airport manager Ivar Satero said in a statement.

Abbott Lab’s ID NOW is small, light (6.6 pounds) and portable (the size of a small toaster), and uses molecular technology to analyze samples.

The Abbott Lab ID NOW device is small, light (6.6 lbs) and…

COVID-19 test sites are popping up quickly at airports around the world, but U.S. airports have been slower to open them.

At Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Alaska, the COVID-19 test is available for passengers entering the state, with results available within two to six days – though the state is facing to a backlog of cases that delayed notification. (The airport does not offer SFO quick test offers.)

The tests are free for residents of Alaska or $ 250 for non-residents. You can also provide proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours of travel. A negative result will allow people entering the state to avoid a mandatory two-week quarantine.

Hawaii officials were hoping that a similar testing strategy could reopen the islands to tourists without quarantining them for 14 days, but that plan is officially on hold until at least October due to an increase in cases in the ‘State.

Delta Air Lines said it has partnered with CVS Health to conduct rapid tests on flight attendants and pilots at select airports across the country. A clinician will administer COVID-19 “rapid-response nasal swab” tests to Delta employees in select crew lounges. Results come back in about 15 minutes.

The airline has not announced any future plans to perform rapid testing beyond its employees, according to an airline spokesperson. SFO is not one of the airports where the airline’s rapid tests are administered.

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Abroad, the German government bears the costs of a network of test sites at the airports of Frankfurt, Berlin (Tegel and Schoenefeld airports) and Düsseldorf. Travelers from “high-risk countries” (the United States is included) undergo a mandatory test, the results of which are available within days.

Mandatory tests are also available at airports in Dubai, Istanbul, Hong Kong and both airports in Tokyo. All of these airports have used rapid screening programs for arriving passengers, providing results to health authorities and travelers within hours.

At Haneda Airport in Tokyo, testing capacity has nearly doubled from 2,000 tests to 3,800 per day, according to Katsunobu Kato, Japanese Minister of Health. Arriving international passengers get results in less than an hour.

Until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes readily available, could widespread testing be the key to safely reopening international air travel and resuscitating the struggling travel industry?

Two influential business groups representing airports and airlines think so.

The International Airlines Council and the International Air Transport Association have reportedly urged a United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization task force to consider testing travelers so they can avoid a long quarantine at their time. destination. More on that here.

According to the proposal, negative test results within 48 hours of travel could be an alternative to on-site accommodation.

Mandatory quarantine orders around the world (especially for those who have been to the United States) have quashed demand for international air travel.

“Unnecessary quarantine measures are particularly damaging to passenger confidence, as international air travelers have no assurance that, if they organize a flight, they will be able to return to their place of departure to continue with their daily lives. Said Luis Felipe de, CEO of ACI World. Oliveira said in a statement. “The imposition of such restrictions ignores other options such as testing.”

Earlier this summer, the UN task force said countries should refrain from implementing rapid tests given their reliability and the problems associated with screening thousands of travelers.

“Rapid tests cannot be a prerequisite for travel due to their unreliability or impracticality,” the task force recommended. “It should be noted that rapid testing of all passengers prior to departure would not be operationally viable unless faster, more reliable and real-time testing becomes available.

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Chris McGinnis is the senior correspondent for SFGATE. You can reach him by email or follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Don’t miss an ounce of important travel news by signing up for its FREE weekly email updates!

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