In Depth

Dubai Airport deploys sniffer dogs to detect coronavirus carriers

Passengers arriving in UAE are first in world to undergo ‘Covid K9’ checks

Specially trained dogs are attempting to sniff out coronavirus infections among travellers arriving at Dubai Airport, in a world first.

K9 sniffer dogs have been stationed at Dubai International Airport and other airports across the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where they are “working to track possible infections using swabs gathered from arriving passengers”, Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National reports.

According to Major Salah Al Mazrooei of Dubai Police, the samples are taken from passengers’ armpits for the tests, being conducted “in collaboration with partners from Dubai Health Authority”, and “the results are out in less than one minute”.

“Travellers who have a fear of dogs do not need to worry as there is no direct contact between dogs and passengers,” adds The National. “Instead, the animals are exposed to samples collected from travellers in an isolated room.”

Debate over whether dogs can sniff out the virus has been raging for months. But “the UAE has chosen to believe that sniffer dogs are efficient in detecting Covid-19 in the passengers”, says The Times of India.

In a statement, Dubai’s Ministry of Interior said: “Data and studies showed that detection of presumed Covid-19 cases achieved approximately 92% in overall accuracy. 

“Figures indicate that dogs can quickly detect infected cases, help protect key sites, effectively deal with huge crowds and secure large events, airports, etc.”

Although it may sound barking mad, “this method has been used to detect several other diseases that can affect body odor such as cancer and malaria”, The Sun reports.

A recent study revealed that researchers in Germany have trained army sniffer dogs to distinguish between samples of fluids from patients infected with Covid and healthy donors.

“The animals were able to positively detect SARS-CoV-2 infected secretions with an 83% success rate, and control secretions at a rate of 96%,” according to Deutsche Welle.

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