The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US has extended its collaboration with XpresSpa Group’s subsidiary XpresCheck for the Covid-19 biosurveillance programme at airports.

The extension increases the contract value from the initial level of $2m to $5.6m.

The Covid-19 biosurveillance programme was initially introduced in September last year.

It includes an eight-week pilot that focuses on the importation of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants in the US on flights originating from India.

XpresCheck CEO Ezra Ernst said: “During the Thanksgiving holiday, we worked closely with the CDC to pivot and expand our surveillance programme to screen for the new, highly contagious Omicron variant that was identified just days earlier in Africa.

“Together, with our testing partner, Concentric by Ginkgo, we successfully expanded the programme to monitor additional flights from around the globe.”

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With this extension, passengers arriving from seven African nations, including those making connections through the UK, France, Germany and Brazil, will be tested under the programme.

Earlier, the programme included three US airports, namely John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Newark-Liberty International Airport (EWR) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

With the inclusion of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), the number of testing sites has now increased to four.

Operationally, the current expansion will include the same tests and procedures as the pilot programme.

Under the programme, travellers take a PCR test, which is sent to the lab with additional samples to identify the presence of Covid-19.

If confirmed, the viral samples undergo genomic sequencing for the identification of the present variant.