A report from the Innovation Economy Council titled From Gateways to Sentinels: How airports can use detection to control infection, has highlighted the pandemic response initiatives of Toronto Pearson Airport in Canada.
The report looks at the role of airports in the early detection of new variants through AI-driven early warnings, wastewater surveillance and more. It found that airports are no longer just gateways for travel but are sources of data to help public health policymakers make decisions.
Two wastewater surveillance programs have been initiated at the airport. The first began in January 2022 in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Public Health Ontario. The second is a pilot project funded by the National Research Council of Canada and the Industrial Research Assistance Program, in which sewage samples are collected from Terminals 1 and 3 and from a triturator reservoir that contains the combined wastewater of all airplanes that land at Pearson. Access to these wastewater samples can help experts look for new strains of Covid-19, identifying them earlier than with traditional PCR testing.
Pearson is also supporting efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 through other technology such as Spotlight-19 from Toronto-based data analytics company ISBRG. The device – currently under Health Canada review – is designed to detect Covid-19 infection using a special light that scans a fingertip; the scan takes less than a minute to perform. Should testing be brought back in as part of pandemic response measures, this is expected to be an inexpensive, non-invasive way to screen large numbers of people at airports and other large venues.