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Brief Published: 5 Nov 2020

Helsinki Airport Dogs Detect Passengers with Covid-19

Helsinki Airport

As airports race to devise quick, efficient Covid-19 testing schemes, Helsinki is investing in a measure that’s already a feature: dogs. For four months, Helsinki International Airport will run a trial scheme where trained security dogs will sniff travellers in an effort to determine whether or not they’re infected.

We first wrote about the potential of using security dogs to detect travellers with Covid-19 in our airport update in May. Since then, a French study has concluded that the sweat of people with Covid-19 is likely to have a different aroma to that of those who don’t. Working with this knowledge, the University of Helsinki is training canines to detect the virus on different materials. According to preliminary findings, dogs have an almost 100% correct detection rate.

At the airport, arriving international passengers will be required to undergo testing after retrieving their luggage. They’ll swab their skin with a wipe, which is then placed into a cup. In a separate room (still visible to travellers). This cup will be placed next to a series of control cups for the dog to smell. A positive test will result in the dog pawing, yelping or lying down. The test takes about a minute to complete. To confirm the result, passengers who dogs identify as having Covid-19 will undergo a nasal swab test. 

If this method works consistently, it could help restart international travel by eliminating – or at least reducing – quarantine times for non-infected arrivals. As discussed at Skift 2020, finding an effective, quick and cost-efficient testing strategy will be crucial for restarting the industry.

For more on issues impacting the airline industry, see The State of Business Travel.