A cheap, quick, non-invasive and reliable COVID-19 test is exactly what the aviation industry is crying out for to safely restart international air travel and put an end to draconian quarantine restrictions. And the wait for such a test could now be over with one Israeli startup penning a deal with a major airport services company to deploy a simple COVID-19 test that can provide a result in less than a second.
The spectral testing device from Virusight Diagnostic is mobile, cost-effective, highly scalable and simply requires the user to gargle some mouthwash and spit into a tube. The test, known as SpectraLIT test uses spectroscopy in which broadband light is shone through the sample.
On the other side of the light source is a powerful sensor chip that discerns different wavelengths. Using artificial technology, the device can then tell whether the wavelengths from the sample indicate someone is infected with COVID-19.
A study conducted by Sheba Medical Center, the largest hospital in Israel, found the device has a success rate of as much as 95 per cent. In contrast, standard PCR tests could have a false-negative rate of greater than 1 in 5.
While the possibly game-changing test is still awaiting FDA approval, Virusight Diagnostic has already signed a deal with ICTS Europe which has a presence in over 120 airports across the continent and around the world.
ICTS is in talks with several European airports about trialling the test and once it’s proven itself effective in one airport could be expanded to dozens more within a month. The test could even be fitted into self-serve kiosks as part of the standard check-in process.
The deal was announced on the same day that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said pre-departure COVID-19 testing for all passengers was the only solution to restart global air connectivity and put an end to confidence-sapping quarantine rules.
Latest results from an IATA funded study found 65 per cent of travellers believe quaratine should be scrapped altogether if a passenger tests negative for COVID-19, while an overwhelming 88 per cent of those surveyed said they’d be willing to undergo testing as part of the travel process.
“The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic COVID-19 testing of all travelers before departure,” commented IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac.
“Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence. And that will put millions of people back to work,” he continued.
Under IATA’s proposal, testing would take place pre-departure in order to create a “clean” COVID-19 free environment. For it to be a success, however, governments would have to agree to open up borders to passengers who test negative for COVID-19 at the airport. A risk that many governments have been unwilling to take.
And while over 30 countries have implemented some form of airport testing regimen, many of these solutions aren’t scalable and results can take hours, if not days, to come through. They are also expensive, invasive and require significant resources to set up and run.
The SpectraLIT test might be exactly what IATA is looking for. Now it just needs to get FDA approval.
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