A 15-Minute COVID Test Could Get International Travel Off The Ground Sooner Than We Thought

Qantas Alan Joyce is giving travellers hope again, but there are no guarantees.

Qantas Alan Joyce is giving travellers hope again, but there are no guarantees.

In some welcome news for fans of other countries, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce reckons rapid preflight COVID-19 tests could make international travel a possibility sooner than we originally thought. 

“There are some great developments in testing that could resolve the issue of people needing to go into quarantine,” he said at last week’s virtual Australia Pacific Aviation Summit, as reported by Executive Traveller. He thinks the speedy tests are a “reason to be optimistic”. Don’t play with our emotions, Alan.

The “super-fast” tests return results in about 15 minutes, potentially meaning that passengers who test negative wouldn’t need to quarantine at their destination.

Joyce suggests the test could open up travel to countries that “have [similar] levels of transmission [to Australia] – New Zealand, maybe Japan, maybe some countries in Asia – then you could see ‘bubbles’ opening up one by one.”

For context, Joyce is probably talking about the rapid coronavirus test known as BinaxNOW. The test essentially detects an antigen (a bit of viral protein) present in the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) to determine if a patient has been infected.

The test is also much less invasive than the standard COVID-19 swab. After a sample is collected from a centimetre or so inside the nostril, it’s combined with a test strip which spits out your result within 15 minutes. It’s kind of like a pregnancy test (don’t pee on it though, you guys). The quick test can even be paired with a mobile app that “works like a secure digital "boarding pass" you can use to prove you’re coronavirus-free. Loving this Black Mirror episode! So techy. 

But here's the annoying bit. As this is a new test, it comes with some serious limitations that will inevitably yield some false results. This means a negative antigen test will still need to be confirmed by more testing. What testing, you ask? The standard PCA test – you know, the swab that goes right up your nose and takes a couple of days to return a result. Ah, weird nasal swab! We wish we knew how to quit you. 

And while the test has been FDA-approved for emergency use in the US, the status of the test in Australia is a lot less clear

Bummer. Maybe hold off on packing those bags for now.

Main Image Credit: Erik Odiin, Unsplash

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