Good afternoon, everyone.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak on perhaps the most defining health issue of our lifetime.
As Air Canada's chief medical officer, I oversee all aspects of Air Canada's health policies and from day one have been directly involved with both Air Canada and the International Air Transport Association medical advisory group's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As stated earlier, Air Canada had an early view into the pandemic and was very concerned with the trajectory of the disease in early January 2020.
This insight was partly due to our partnership with BlueDot. In April 2019, we entered into a partnership with a small Toronto-based artificial intelligence infectious disease analytics and surveillance company, because we recognized the importance of early disease surveillance and the impact it has on the aviation industry. BlueDot assists Air Canada in predicting when and what stations will be affected in any given outbreak, allowing us to plan accordingly with early warning.
With the benefit of this partnership, and in the absence of a single measure that can achieve high levels of risk reduction, Air Canada took the alternative approach of using a combination of biosafety measures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, as far as practical, at the earlier stages of the pandemic. In addition to limiting travel to COVID-19 hot spots in those early stages, we focused on our front-line crew and customers. Working with our unions and crew, crew were provided with masks, and our check-in, boarding procedures and on-board service process was redesigned to reduce and minimize interaction with customers in order to reduce risk for both groups.
As the pandemic continued to spread and we realized that this was not a short-term problem, we further redesigned our customer experience to enhance our existing health systems, such as advanced HEPA filters on aircraft, which refresh air every several minutes and capture 99.9% of airborne pathogens.
In consultation with other medical experts, we introduced the Air Canada CleanCare+ program, a first of its kind in the industry and certainly in Canada. This program utilizes electrostatic sprayers; provides customers, in addition to staff, with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer in a kit; scans customers for temperature, a policy that has been recently adopted by the federal government; and further minimizes direct contact between staff and customers during the travel experience.
While no one single measure is a sure way to prevent acquiring COVID-19, the use of multiple layers of these measures certainly does reduce the probability that one might be exposed to the virus during travel.
As the world continues to adjust to the new normal, air carriers are also adopting new measures to ensure that air travel, with its benefits, can once again begin to operate safely and throughout the world. While border restrictions might have assisted efforts in containing the spread early on, both the WHO and PHAC acknowledge that it's not a guaranteed way to eliminate the risk.
Today, with a better understanding of COVID-19, we are able to better manage these risks, and we are seeing countries around the world adopt new measures and reopen their borders. Such emerging technologies include digital contact tracing, which the federal government and Ontario are soon to roll out in the form of an app, digital AI technology capturing contactless vital signs, and expanded and new testing technology. In fact, Air Canada is looking at cutting-edge Canadian technology that can screen customers for COVID-19 at airports and would further reduce the possibility that customers can spread the virus aboard aircraft.
The key to using these technologies is partnership with the federal government. The reality is that COVID-19 will continue to circulate in our communities to some degree and won't be fully controlled until a vaccine is developed and rolled out in mass quantities. I sense that there is a false belief that COVID-19 will be eradicated with current measures. It will not. We can only continue to minimize risk and cases in this environment.
Our goal should be to reopen the economy while putting in place measures to limit the spread and limit outbreaks. We are working to make air travel as safe as it can be in this environment for our customers and staff so that we can welcome Canadians back on our aircraft and help them to do business, visit friends and family and explore the corners of our country and the world.