DUBAI, One year after completing one of the first studies relating to detection of COVID-19, the United Arab Emirates now has 38 sniffer dogs working at its airports that can identify infected persons at a 98.2-percent success rate.
Dubai Police trained the cohort, which includes German Shepherds, Labradors, Cocker Spaniels and Border Collies, to recognise the scent of COVID-19 using samples of sweat from people with confirmed infections, collected by holding a swab in an armpit for a few minutes.
“A very small amount of that is then put into a jar – it has the scent of the patient – then we put the sample out for the dog to sniff … When he gives us a sign, we give him a treat,” said First Lieutenant Nasser al-Falasi of Dubai Police, supervisor of the programme at the K9 training centre in Dubai’s Awir region.
In the centre’s large training hall, police handlers walk the dogs along a row of metal boxes, of which only one contains a positive sample. The dogs sniff the samples and within seconds sit down to signal that they have found something. Falasi said the dogs currently carry out around 30-40 tests a day at airports. Bolt, a black and tan Belgian Malinois, was the first COVID-19 detection dog that he trained. The dogs are mainly used in airports across the UAE, but are ready to be used wherever required.