How will COVID-19 detection dogs be able to help?
Our aim is that our COVID-19 detection dogs will be able to passive screen, i.e. without physical contact, any individual, including those who are asymptomatic, and indicate to dog handlers whether they have detected the COVID-19 virus. This will then be confirmed by a medical test. This would be fast, effective and non-invasive, and make sure the limited NHS testing resources are only used where they are really needed.
If our research is successful, COVID-19 detection dogs could be deployed in public places such as airports and sporting events. Once trained, detection dogs could be deployed in airports or other venues to screen large numbers of people, providing a rapid non-invasive screening for COVID-19. A single dog can screen up to 250 people per hour. This would help prevent the second wave of the disease after we have brought the present pandemic under control and we hope help to lift movement restrictions sooner. We are already discussing scale up with international border agencies in several countries around the world.
COVID-19 detection dogs could also assist in mapping and intelligence gathering to provide estimates of likely percentage of infected travellers on flights from ‘hotspot’ locations from around the world. This would provide rapid information of risk and likelihood of rapid spread, helping to prevent an uncontrolled second wave of COVID-19 in the autumn.