Here’s why quick tests for Hawaii flights might just save trips
Yesterday, United Airlines announced it would start offering rapid COVID-19 testing at San Francisco Airport for passengers traveling to Hawaii. Results take about 15 minutes. This is just one airport, for an airline’s flights to one destination – and yet it may just be a watershed moment for travel in the COVID age.
Why? Because United has worked with Hawaiian authorities to establish a testing protocol that will be available to all passengers in order to travel freely and avoid quarantine on arrival. If this works as expected and Hawaii can prevent an upsurge in infections, it will provide a model for all other airports, airlines and governments to follow.
United’s testing offer is expected to go live on October 15, the same day Hawaii will begin allowing travelers to enter without a 14-day quarantine provided they test negative.
The potential to revolutionize travel in the event of a pandemic
Meanwhile, Lufthansa is also planned to launch rapid antigenic tests for its passengers – and is even considering offering tests in North America to revive transatlantic travel. Lufthansa has been talking for weeks about establishing test protocols on certain air lanes, like other airlines. Most expect the relevant authorities to buy into their ideas and make things happen.
I dealt with the importance of international cooperation around officially sanctioned and easily accessible tests before. A functioning rapid test system like United’s deployed around the world would mean that if someone really wants or needs to visit a location, they can do so by proving with a reasonable degree of certainty that they are not a carrier. virus. And that could apply as much to business travel as to tourism, both of which need to be reactivated as soon as possible.
This ability to move when the need arises (or yes, even just when the desire to get away sets in) is going to be essential in boosting economies, reuniting friends and family and more.
How is this different from current test protocols?
Some destinations already allow entry if visitors arrive with proof of a negative test, usually done within the last 72 hours. However, this solution is much better. It’s because:
- It is difficult to run a test within 72 hours in many places, including the United States. The uncertainty about this turnaround time, along with the uncertainty about test approval and destination acceptance of the results, add serious complications to booking travel. Many people who are faced with this will simply choose not to care.
- Passengers tested three days ago will have had three days to potentially catch the virus. True, it is always possible for a person to be negative in the first few days of infection, and the tests are not 100% accurate. However, testing upon departure further reduces the risk. And our solutions to deal with COVID-19 must be based on minimizing risk as much as possible, not an unrealistic notion of eliminating risk completely.
Cost is the next hurdle
The only real problem with the United Airlines setup is that it’s going to cost $ 250. It’s going to be way too expensive for a typical family going on vacation. However, we can hope that as production increases testing becomes more numerous and cheaper, but still accurate testing methods continue to emerge, this price may drop steadily. Global adoption of similar testing protocols can only help with this aspect as well.
Stay tuned as the next month or two should prove to be very interesting as faster tests roll out in more cities around the world.