Air Canada and Switch Health have just launched a series of new testing options to simplify Canadian travellers’ journeys on international trips.
Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to trial the Switch Health RT-LAMP Test Kit to satisfy Canada’s pre-entry molecular test requirement on my way back from Switzerland, where I was a participant in the Air Canada Race. Here’s my experience using the portable RT-LAMP tests.
Switch Health RT-LAMP Test Kit
The Switch Health RT-LAMP test is a COVID-19 test, approved by Health Canada, that is done remotely under the supervision of a Canadian health professional on a video call. All you need is a reliable internet connection and the test can be done anywhere in the world.
The actual test in the kit is a Lucira Check It COVID-19 Test Kit. It is approved by Health Canada to be used as an over-the-counter self-collection kit for people aged 14 and older, as well as for adult collection for children aged 2–13.
As you get ready to leave for your trip, you should save a bit of room in your bag for the test kit, which is about the size of a book. The kit contains everything you need for the test, as well as detailed instructions.
Inside, you’ll find:
- A nasal swab
- A test vial
- A test unit
- Two AA batteries
- A QR code unique to the kit
- Detailed instructions
Everything within the kit is labelled and easy to find.
Aside from the kit contents, you’ll also need:
- A mobile device with a camera
- An internet connection
- Valid government issued photo ID
- A clear, flat area for the testing device
- Clean tissues
- Hand sanitizer
- Around 45 minutes of your time
Taking the Switch Health RT-LAMP Test
The first step is to create an account with Switch Health’s ASMO portal, Switch Health’s proprietary telehealth platform. Through ASMO, you will register for an account, connect with a healthcare professional who will supervise your test, and retrieve your certified results.
You can scan the QR code found in the instruction manual to create an account. Through this portal, you will register yourself and any other dependents for whom you will also register for an upcoming test.
Once you have your account set up, affix the QR code to the lower right-hand corner of the test unit. This QR code will be used to identify you and to certify your test results. Any attempts to remove or alter the QR code once it has been registered to you will void your results.
Once you’re ready to take the test, the next step is to connect with a Switch Health healthcare representative through the ASMO portal. The healthcare workers are available 24/7.
They will walk you through the activation of your kit, as well as guide you through the process from identification to testing.
For the actual test, you’ll need to insert the swab 2cm into each nostril for 15 seconds, moving it in a circular motion. My wife remarked that it was much less invasive than some of the brain-tickling PCR tests she’s previously had.
You then stir the swab in the purple liquid in the test vial for around 20 seconds. Once this is done, you can dispose of the swab in the included plastic bag, seal the vial, and activate the test by pushing down firmly until you hear a click.
The “ready” light on the test unit will begin blinking, indicating that the test is running. The video call will wrap up at this point.
Before generating a result, you must let the device run for 30 minutes until it displays a positive or negative test result.
After half an hour, the test kit will display a solid green light indicating either a positive or a negative test result. The “done” light will also turn solid green.
Importantly, you must upload a photograph of the test result to your ASMO account within 15 minutes of it being displayed. This ensures that you will get a test result record as per their requirements.
You will also receive an email reminder to upload your result, so be sure not to venture far from your test kit after your online appointment.
Within minutes of uploading your result, you will receive an email informing you that your official test results are available. This is the document you’ll need to enter Canada, for example.
The letter displays all of the pertinent information about the test, including the time of collection, your personal details, and the details of the test. This time of collection is a very relevant data point, as many countries (including Canada) require tests to be taken within a specific amount of time prior to your arrival.
From start to finish, the process takes around 45 minutes. The actual video call lasts around 5–10 minutes; the bulk of your time is spent waiting for the test to run.
My test needed to be done within 72 hours of my last direct flight to Canada, so I slotted some time on Monday evening in time for my flight on Thursday afternoon.
After preparing everything in my hotel room, I was connected with a healthcare worker on the ASMO platform in less than five minutes. She guided me through identification and the test.
For some reason, the microphone on my phone wasn’t working, so I communicated through the chat feature and through gesturing. It was probably a good thing that my microphone was down, though, because I wound up sneezing a lot during the swabbing. Apparently I have a very ticklish nose.
During the wait for my results, I enjoyed a local craft beer that I’d picked up for the occasion and got ready for an upcoming gala dinner that evening
As soon as my negative result appeared, I breathed a sigh of relief and uploaded a picture of the result and the test device with the QR code to the ASMO platform. Shortly thereafter, an official document with a unique QR code identifier was ready for download on ASMO.
I showed my proof of negative result and my vaccination card upon check-in at the airport. It was an entirely uneventful experience, which took away any worry that I had about travelling internationally for the first time since the onset of COVID-19.
The Switch Health RT-LAMP Home Collection Kit is a great product for Canadian travellers. It’s remarkably convenient, affordable, and Health Canada-approved, and it makes for a simple and worry-free testing solution for your return flight back to Canada.
For the foreseeable future, while Canada’s current pre-entry testing requirements are in place, leave some room in your bag for the RT-LAMP Home Collection Kit so you can enjoy more of your long-awaited holiday.