In the last week, Finland kicked off their corona-detecting dog project in Helsinki airport with some impressive results. But Schiphol authorities say they’re not currently planning to incorporate sniffer dogs for coronavirus.
Ten dogs in Helsiniki airport are being used to detect coronavirus in arriving passengers, with 90% accuracy, reports RTL Nieuws. They can detect the virus long before those infected show symptoms, and when the virus is only barely present in the body.
Covid-19 dogs started their work today at the Helsinki Airport at arrival hall 2B. Dogs have been trained to detect the coronavirus from the test wipes given by the testperson. Service is voluntary and primarily targeted for passengers arriving from abroad. pic.twitter.com/ieMLm0KuZY
— Helsinki Airport (@HelsinkiAirport) September 22, 2020
But Hotsche Luik of the Scent Detection Academy Gelderland, says bringing in sniffer dogs to Dutch airports is a complicated process. Her company is the only one in the Netherlands which trains dogs to track diseases in people. “Our labradors, herders and beagles, detect all kinds of cancers and diseases such as diabetes and epilepsy,” says Luik, “and I can also train our dogs to detect corona.”
The issue with training the dogs
The problem is that to do this, many things need to fall in place. First, safe samples of the virus would need to become available to her from laboratories or medical specialists, says Luik. This could be in the form of a blood, sweat, or urine sample.
It would then take about two months to train the dogs to recognise the smell of the virus. Once they are trained, rules would need to be determined as to how they may be used safely.
“In short: there is a lot to consider afterwards,” says Luik. “But I think that dogs can definitely make a valuable contribution to tackling corona.”
Schiphol not intending to use dogs
A spokesperson for Schiphol airport explained that there are currently no plans in place to implement sniffer dogs, and that this is not up to them anyway. They are waiting for more regional measures to be put in place.
Instead, Schiphol authorities favour the international testing approach, in which passengers get tested before taking the flight to Holland. “We are in favor of all passengers being tested in advance before boarding the aircraft. Just as baggage is tested before it enters the aircraft. This testing can be done in various ways, as long as it is safe and reliable. Whether with a cotton swab, temperature checks or special dogs.”
With Schiphol’s testing street now gone, they are effectively relying on the testing systems of other nations to ensure corona-safe entry into the Netherlands.
Corona dogs abroad
In the meantime, other nations are following suite with Finland and are developing their own pilot sniffer dogs. Great Britain has directed large subsidies toward this project, and dogs in the USA and the French island of Corsica are also being trained to smell the virus.
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Feature Image: CDC/Unsplash