Covid-19: Helsinki Airport to use trained dogs to identify coronavirus

21 September 2020 (Last Updated September 21st, 2020 10:04)

Finnish airport operator Finavia has announced that Helsinki Airport is set to launch a pilot project that involves using trained dogs to identify Covid-19 infected passengers.

Covid-19: Helsinki Airport to use trained dogs to identify coronavirus
Finavia head office. Credit: Jaakko from Espoo, Finland.

Finnish airport operator Finavia has announced that Helsinki Airport is set to launch a pilot project that involves using trained dogs to identify coronavirus-infected passengers.

The pilot is scheduled to commence this week and seeks to demonstrate the effectiveness of using canines to identify and restrict the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The move follows a study at the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Helsinki, where preliminary tests showed that trained dogs can smell the virus with nearly 100% certainty.

In addition, the dogs are able to identify the disease with a much smaller sample compared to the ones taken for PCR test.

Finavia said that a dog needs between ten and 100 molecules to identify the virus, whereas test equipment requires 1.8 million.

The dogs to be deployed at Helsinki Airport are trained by Wise Nose.

WiseNose Suomen hajuerottelu CEO and University of Helsinki’s DogRisk research group research coordinator Susanna Paavilainen said: “We are working with Finnish Customs to prepare for a potential scenario where it takes charge of the operation.”

However, the testing process will not involve direct contact between the passenger and the dog.

A person undertaking the test will swipe their skin with a test wipe and drop it into a cup. This cup is given to the dog for testing.

If the test result is positive, the passenger will move to a health information point in the airport maintained by the city of Vantaa.

Covid-19 testing with the trained dogs will officially begin after a corresponding legislative amendment.

Currently, 16 dogs are being trained for the job. As planned, the airport will deploy four canines per shift.

Paavilainen added: “Dogs need to rest from time to time. While two dogs are working, the other two are on a break. The service is mainly intended for passengers arriving from outside the country.”

Earlier this month, Finavia started testing Ultraviolet C (UVC) light technology at one of its airports to disinfect security trays.