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University of Calgary lab supporting rapid COVID-19 testing for international travellers

Last Updated Nov 5, 2020 at 11:13 am MDT

FILE -- COVID-19 testing. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – The rapid COVID-19 tests being offered at Calgary’s international airport and the Coutts border crossing are being analyzed at the University of Calgary.

The pilot project, which was unveiled last month, offers an alternative to the current 14-day quarantine for travellers going in and out of Canada.

Travellers will be given a COVID-19 test upon arrival and if they test negative, can exit isolation if they agree to take another test seven days later.

RELATEDNew testing program for international travellers arriving in Alberta

The hematology lab at the Cumming School of Medicine is using two different methods to test for COVID-19: a molecular test developed at the university and another method that involves sequencing the virus.

“Our lab received accreditation to assist with clinical-grade molecular profiling of hematological cancers, it is a unique designation for a lab at a research-intensive university,” said Dr. Faisal Khan, PhD, director of the hematology lab.

“With the pandemic, we saw an opportunity to use this lab to serve our community and work with Alberta Health Services and Alberta Precision Laboratories in a new way.”

The lab has been expanded to accommodate the work and will be able to analyze 600 samples per day.

Once this COVID-19 pilot project is over, the lab said data from positive samples could be studied to reveal critical information about the virus.

“The sequencing method targets 98 different regions of the virus, providing valuable information on viral genomics,” said Khan. “With that data, we can learn about different strains of the virus. This can help inform policymakers, in Alberta, Canada, and throughout the world.”