From Iceland — Search Dogs Against COVID-19

Search Dogs Against COVID-19

Published September 25, 2020

Catherine Magnúsdóttir
Photo by
Alísa Kalyanova

The Chief of Police in Northwest Iceland is reported hoping to get specially trained search dogs against COVID-19 to the country if they continue to give good results abroad.

According to a report by RÚV, the police have been in constant contact with institutions, for example in the UK, that train dogs and investigate whether they can be involved in the analysis of COVID-19 samples.

Reportedly, studies at the University of Helsinki have obtained preliminary results that indicate that the dogs are able to learn and work fast and even perform better than the current COVID-19 tests that are based on molecular techniques. The dogs are even able to sniff out infections in people that are asymptomatic.

Two days ago COVID search dogs began operating at the airport in Helsinki and, according to the university’s statement, the testing at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport has been designed carefully. Passengers who are allergic to dogs or are afraid of them have been taken into consideration, and so now a dog will smell only samples swiped from the skin, that is, not the people directly.

Arriving passengers at the airport go to a COVID dog sampling station, where they take a skin swipe and drop the sample into the container provided for it. The dog and its trainer are behind a wall, where the dog sniffs the given sample. Personal information is not collected at the sampling station. If the result is positive, the passenger is directed to the Helsinki University Hospital’s health information station for further instructions.

In a conversation with RÚV, the Chief of Police in the Northwest, Stefán Vagn Stefánsson, said that he has closely followed the training of COVID dogs in other countries and that he could get dogs from abroad to Iceland to look for COVID-19 infections. The police here would complete the training of the dogs and could start searching within two months after their arrival.

“British dogs could take up to 250 samples per hour,” Stefán Vagn says. “That means two dogs could take 500 samples per hour.”

He reportedly emphasised the enormous opportunities of the dogs’ work if the results are effective. “But then, of course, it will be up to us to decide whether this will become a reality here.”

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