B.C. residents looking to cross the U.S.-Canada border will now have an option to take a coronavirus test from the comfort of their homes.
Switch Health, a Canadian-based healthcare company, recently announced a partnership with Air Canada that allows travellers to use its portable self-administered COVID-19 molecular and antigen test kits while travelling abroad to avoid the hassle of finding clinics.
But the tests aren't only available through the airline — and they may be used for other modes of transportation, too.
Officials at the U.S. land border still haven't stated if a negative result from a COVID-19 test will be required to gain entry. However, all Canadians five years of age or older must provide proof of a negative molecular test to return home. Screening tests for work or travel are not covered by public health services.
The molecular test required to gain access back to the country takes a considerable amount of time to procure at most places (typically 24 to 48 hours). Depending on what state you travel to, some pharmacies offer COVID-19 testing free of charge. Walgreens is the most popular, but some people have reported that they were tested for free at CVS Pharmacy and Rite Aid locations.
That said, some B.C. residents say the hassle of finding a clinic south of the border isn't worth the trouble. Further, the turnaround time might not work for their trip.
While there are several COVID-19 testing kits on the market, Switch Health spokesperson Jordan Paquet told Vancouver Is Awesome in a phone interview that they must meet certain requirements to be admissible at the Canada-U.S. border.
Travellers may not present a self-administered test as evidence of a negative result if it is not supervised. However, Switch Health tests are conducted under the remote supervision of Telehealth professionals and include an electronic report suitable for travel.
The Switch Health Telehealth team is available 24/7 and the electronic report includes all of the necessary data that the Canadian Border Services Agency requires.
Results for the RT-LAMP or Rapid Antigen Test Kit will be available within 45 minutes of uploading your result reading into ASMO.
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."
Have a look at a video of Air Canada's new partnership with the company.
Special considerations for Canadians abroad
Travellers must also check the requirements for the country they are entering as Switch Health does 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.