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UAE police dogs deployed to sniff out COVID-19

written by Sandy Milne | August 19, 2020

Sniffer dogs are being used to test saliva samples for coronavirus (Source: Emirati News Agency).

As the UAE emerges from one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, sniffer dogs have been deployed at Dubai International Airport.

The world-first procedure involves – according to Emirati broadsheet The National – taking perspiration samples from arriving visitors before being placed under the noses of specially trained dogs.

Dubai only reopened its doors to international travellers as of July, and currently requires proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within 96 hours of travel.

Trials of police sniffer dogs “achieved approximately 92 per cent in overall accuracy” in identifying samples of the coronavirus, said the country’s Interior Ministry last week, adding that its research was leading the field globally.

“This would be another defensive barrier strengthening the other already existing barriers in airports and terminals,” said the Interior Ministry’s Captain Hamad Yousef Al Hammadi in a video explaining the dog trials.

“We have developed an Emirates protocol that gives us a high level of speed and accuracy in detecting COVID-19. Instead of taking nasal samples, we take samples of sweat from armpits and the results are immediate,” he said.

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Other countries have backed similar initiatives, though none have been rolled out as yet. An international research team quartered at France’s National Veterinary School of Alfort has been training detector dogs to sniff out traces of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) since March.

In May, the UK government awarded over £500,000 to researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University to establish if dogs could be used as a rapid testing measure for coronavirus.

Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Belgium each have research programs into COVID sniffer dogs underway.

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