2020 has certainly been a year of disruption, with air travel being no exception. Aside from checking on your destination status and rules with regards to Covid-19 and employer-imposed restrictions for travel, there are now new Covid-19 infection mitigation related initiatives being tested by some of the major airline carriers. Of recent, you may have heard about United Airlines testing a Covid-19 ‘health pass’ app to enable safer global travel and accelerate border re-openings. The app, called ‘CommonPass’ was developed to allow travellers to share their Covid-19 test status across borders using a trusted framework.

Wondering how it works?

Upon disembarking from an aircraft, passengers can use their phones to document their Covid-19 test results and share it with airline staff, which until now, was being shared on pieces of paper from unknown labs in foreign languages. The lack of a standardised test format and certification was, until now, leading to confusion and falsification of results.

Without the ability to fully trust Covid-19 results across international borders, many countries had no other option than to enforce travel bans and mandatory quarantine periods. Last month, United Airlines also announced that it was working to launch the first testing program for air travellers (for specific destinations), involving rapid tests at the airport or use of mail-in at-home tests prior to travel for passengers flying from San Francisco to Hawaiian airports.

The test in question, Rapid Abbott ID, provides results in approximately 15 minutes and will be made available to United Airline customers to use on the day of their travel. United Airlines does plan to roll out similar testing to other U.S destinations over time. If you’re based in Atlanta, Georgia, and are planning to travel then your best bet is to talk to your primary care physician regarding getting a valid Rapid Test or one of the other approved tests done within 24 hours of your travel date.

As of today, November 5th,2020, Georgia’s case rate has surged to about 14 cases per 100,000 people over the last 7 days. For travellers finding a testing site that knows the airline test requirements or those that offer the required test with results available within a short time frame (i.e., within 24 hours) is posing to be a challenge. Buckhead Medicine, an award-winning premier concierge and traditional medical practice in mid-town Atlanta, offers and facilitates preventive Covid-19 screening and testing. Getting tested is an important step in planning your travel – and it should be important enough to put on your packing list, right alongside your passport.

How do you get a test for Covid-19 in Atlanta?

If you think you have Covid-19 and feel like you have symptoms, you should first call your primary care provider to talk about your symptoms. This is even more vital if you plan to travel shortly. From urgent care centres to hospitals and pharmacies, you can get a Covid-test done anywhere. Due to a limited supply of tests (and reagents) and manpower shortages, most testing sites focus on high priority, at-risk people and turn away travellers. However, Buckhead Medicine has setup in-house specific testing facilities and staff for regular patients, and to support the increasing demand from ad-hoc requests. Simply go to www.buckheadmedicine.com or call to setup an appointment for your Covid-test.

What kind of Covid-19 Virus Tests are there?

There are multiple ways to get tested with regards to viral infection. The antigen based viral tests are designed to detect a current infection, while an antibody test will indicate whether you have contracted the virus in the past. If you are travelling, you will need to take the antigen test to find out if you are actively infected. At Buckhead Medicine, we do this via nasal or throat swabs, as well as with saliva samples – they are all quick and painless, with results generally available within 24 – 36 hours.

How do you plan on when to take the test?

Travellers need to find the apt time to take the test. If you take it too early, the results might not be valid by the time you have to travel or potentially you could get infected in the interim. On the other hand, if you plan it too close to your departure date, you may not get your results back in time. Different tests come with different wait times – while the Rapid Test will give you your result in within minutes to hours, the PCR test can take up to 36 – 72 hours. Buckhead Medicine offers results usually within 15 minutes with Rapid testing. Note – the availability of the rapid 15-minute turn around tests available on-site is dependent on availability to test kits.

Airline analysts think that Covid-19 testing or proof of vaccination could eventually become a pre-flight mandate. If we want our economy to bounce back, and our freedom to travel to return, we must be willing to accept that it’s going to be a different world – one wherein we need to prove our good health to airlines and government authorities in order to travel again.