UAE airports use dogs to detect Covid cases among passengers

Abu Dhabi - Man's best friend screens for potentially infected passengers using small scent samples collected through an armpit swab


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Tue 27 Oct 2020, 4:04 PM

Last updated: Tue 27 Oct 2020, 4:10 PM

Sniffer dogs are now being used at multiple UAE entry points to detect cases of Covid-19 among travellers, authorities have confirmed. The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said the K9 dogs have been deployed in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah airports, and at the Ghuwaifat border point.

The police dogs screen for potentially infected passengers using small scent samples collected through an armpit swab. No direct contact happens between a passenger, dog or its handler, said the ministry. Instead, samples are presented to the dog in specialised medical kits placed in an isolated room and the canine can generally determine “within seconds” whether a person has the virus.

Authorities said the initiative is an “additional defence measure” to enhance safety as airports open up and more daily flights land in the country.

Captain Hamad Mubarak Al Azizi, director of security inspection department (K9) at the General Command of the Abu Dhabi Police, said: “As part of the country’s continuous efforts to implement precautionary measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, practical methods have been applied using police dogs at the Abu Dhabi International Airport in accordance with the best approved health standards.”

Lieutenant Muhammad Saeed Al Hamoudi, supervisor of the K9 team at Al Ghuwaifat border, said the swap samples are taken from passengers in an isolated room. This is done in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Prevention.

The Sharjah Police had earlier announced that sniffer dogs are being used at the Sharjah International Airport.

Lieutenant-Colonel Dr Ahmed Adel Al Maamari, head of the K9 security inspection department, Sharjah Police, said the dogs were trained to sniff out cases after they were made to smell test samples in a “special room designated for this purpose”.

Authorities had reported in July that the UAE is “considered the first country in the world” to put the method of using dogs to detect cases of Covid-19 among passengers into action.

The MoI had earlier announced that it had completed trials on K9 dogs that may be employed to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

Samples from the armpits of presumed Covid-19 cases were used in the experiments and the dogs were made to sniff out cases. The results were quick and declared on the spot. Data and studies from the trials showed an overall accuracy of approximately 92 per cent in detection.

The ministry decided to use dogs given their proven capability in dealing with other contagious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria.

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