My experience using the Switch Health RT LAMP Test Kit - Aeroplan COVID-19 test kit
I used it. It worked as promised. In short, the RT LAMP Test Kit @ US$118 / CAD$149 (no taxes applicable) is what all Canadian travellers have been waiting for! Scroll straight to the end of this post for unboxing photos and my experience using the kit.
With an overseas trip on the horizon, I researched the daylights out of the announcement from Air Canada and Switch Health that one could buy a molecular test kit in advance that met Canada's entry requirements and saved one the hassle of finding a lab overseas, spending a day getting tested and often waiting days for the result. Switch Health has a video of the LAMP Test Kit online too. The only review I could find left me with questions - it seemed to read like a sponsored endorsement and the reviewer's trip also seemed to have been sponsored.
So I'm sharing my step by step journey using the kit, as well as researching and purchasing to help fellow travelers on their own journeys. See the end of this post for unboxing photos and my step-by-step experience using the kit.
- The offer from Switch Health and Air Canada/Aeroplan is legit. If you are an Aeroplan member, you can buy the kits at between approximately 40% to 18% off the regular price of the kit. You can use this link: https://switchhealth.ca/en/partners/aeroplan/#collectionKits to buy the kit you want.
- All three tests offered on their website are approved by Health Canada. Two are molecular tests that meet Canada's entry requirements, while the third is not.
- The first on the list on their page - the pack of two antigen tests - is NOT a molecular test and you cannot use it for re-entry to Canada. The 2-pack Rapid Antigen Test (CAD$79) works for many other situations though e.g. travelling by plane to the US or rapid testing at work.
- The next two are molecular tests, both approved by Canada for re-entry into the country- The RT LAMP Test Kit (CAD$149) and the RT PCR Collection Kit (CAD$159).
- Of these two, only the first- the RT LAMP Test Kit is helpful for Canadians planning to travel. The PCR test is NOT helpful as it requires the sample to be picked up, which you can't do if you're not in Canada.
- The RT LAMP Test Kit (see photo below of the kit I purchased) is good for one person for one use at any time of the day or night, with results available within 45 minutes, seems like a miracle for those of us who have had to try to find labs overseas, schedule tests, and often fork out lots of $s and try to find the perfect balance to meet the 72 hour window for the test and then anxiously wait to get results while often getting ready to go to the airport or drive to the border.
- Switch Health indicates that the test is the size of a "book". A book can be many sizes! A picture of the kit I purchased is included below. It is precisely 6 cm (2.4inches) high X 12.5 cm (4.9 inches) wide X 24 cm (9.4 inches) long. Not large at all.
- I carried the test kit in my hand luggage and took it out and placed it in a tray when going through security. The kit has liquid in it, so you may want to pack it in your check-in luggage lest some eager security checker decides they won't let you carry it on board.
- The Switch Health helpline (Felicia) told me that the kit has a 9-month life, so you can buy it in advance and travel with it and use it within that window. The company has clarified since that the expiry date printed on the box is not set in stone.
- Here is the instruction manual and here are the key features to keep in mind if you're going to use it:
- You need a mobile device, ideally a phone (iPhone or Android) or tablet that lets you connect (via WiFi or Cellular) using the browser to a Switch Health nurse who will supervise your test. Your device must have audio and video capability so that you can establish a video call. No special app is needed.
- The ASMO Switch Health portal is accessible from any browser. and provides you access to a nurse 24/7 (as per my call with their helpline on the morning of October 30, 2021) .
- Registration is easy (and you may already be registered if you've done a Switch Health test before). Once you're logged on, the options are very clear.
- The ASMO portal gives you access to a nurse by video who will supervise your swab. The supervised portion of the test is supposed to take approximately 10 minutes.
- The rest of the test doesn’t need you to stay connected. It involves you putting the swab into the test tube provided, running the little testing machine, uploading the results and getting a confirmation of the result (hopefully negative) that you can use to board your flight and at the border. For those of us who like gadgets, this is a treat!
- The Switch Health site says that the entire process should take no more than 45 minutes. It took me less than 30 minutes in total. This beats the days it can take to get a test in a foreign country.
- Buying the RT LAMP Test Kit was a breeze. I used the co-branded Switch Health-Aeroplan website (you can google it or also click here). I entered my Aeroplan number and last name, and the order took under a minute to place. I used Apple Pay, but the regular credit card option works fine too.
- I received a confirmation email within seconds, and a second email later that same day with the shipment tracking number.
- The kit was delivered by Purolator within two business days of when I placed the order! I do live in Toronto, which may have made a difference in shipping times, but this was still amazingly fast.
- I did not even pay extra for express shipping as I had sufficient time and the 7-business day window for receipt of the order was fine with me.
- The 500 aeroplan points were also deposited into my aeroplan account the same day I placed the order. That was a sweet bonus in addition to the discount on the retail price of the kit.
- Lucira Health, the manufacturer of these kits sells them on their own website for US$75. I suppose if you're in the US you can purchase them directly from Lucira, but I'm not sure they come with the approval or the supervision that a Switch Health nurse is supposed to provide and the negative certificate that the Canadian government is looking for.
- I used the kit prior to returning to Canada in November 2021, and it was a breeze. Unboxing photos are included below.
- The procedure was simple. I logged in through the ASMO portal using the browser on my phone (around 7AM EST) and was connected with a Switch Health rep in under 5 minutes. The screen had a helpful prompt telling me where I was in sequence and how long it would take.
- The contents of the box were clearly numbered with fool-proof instructions to stick the QR code to the machine and be ready for the test. Took under a minute to set everything up.
- The rep very helpfully took me through the steps, swab etc in under 3 minutes. She was able to turn the camera and scan my QR code as well. Once the specimen was in the tube and the tube pushed into the base, it did its own thing. Please note that the little machine needs to stay undisturbed on a flat surface from when you put the batteries in and turn it on, to when the test is complete.
- At the 25 minute mark Switch Health texts and emails you a reminder to check your machine.
- At just under 30 minutes the machine (thankfully) gave me a negative result.
- By this point of the test, the ASMO portal has intuitively switched to giving you the option to upload a photo of the result (with the QR code visible).
- Within a few minutes my Switch Health portal included a 1-page document one can download/print and use to upload to your airline website and wherever else we need to use it.
- It was that easy and I was in my PJs the entire time. 🥳
- Note: the kit includes a clear bag you can put everything into to dispose it off. You can save the batteries, but the test tube cannot be removed from the base, so you have to dispose off everything.