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Air New Zealand to trial saliva COVID tests for staff

written by Adam Thorn | January 18, 2021
ZK-NHB Air New Zealand Airbus A320neo
ZK-NHB Air New Zealand Airbus A320neo (Craig Murray)

Air New Zealand staff are to take part in a trial to measure the accuracy of saliva COVID tests against more traditional nasopharyngeal swabs.

Currently, employees are tested twice a week but the regular nose and throat tests can be uncomfortable.

The study will run over two to three months, overseen by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), and has been given the go-ahead by the country’s Ministry of Health.

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The airline’s chief medical officer, Dr Ben Johnston, said, “It’s great to team up with ESR on this trial to see if a faster and more non-invasive option is available as it’s likely surveillance testing for COVID-19 will be required for some time into the future.

“This study will bring us one step closer to looking at the effectiveness of saliva testing, which would greatly improve the experience for our people who are committed to keeping New Zealanders safe.”

ESR chief scientist Dr Brett Cowan said, “This study will go a long way to determining if saliva testing can be added to New Zealand’s toolbox as we look to strengthen our defence against COVID-19.”

The news comes as much of the industry trials less invasive and more comfortable saliva tests.

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World of Aviation reported earlier this month how Swissport has opened a five-hour turnaround COVID testing facility at Zurich Airport.

“The tests are sold as self-test kits on site and can be performed in test boxes independently, with no assistance required by medical personnel,” said Swissport subsidiary Checkport Schweiz AG.

The test boxes are cleaned after each traveller, before the samples are sent to a lab four times a day by courier. Each test costs €180 and the centre is open every day between 6am and 8pm, with no appointment necessary.

“The tests are intended for people who do not show COVID-19 symptoms but need a test for travel or in order to participate at specific events. Especially airline passengers benefit from this quick PCR testing option, as only PCR tests are currently accepted by authorities for entry into countries requiring a COVID-19 test certificate,” said Checkport Schweiz.

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