I have recently written about the training of dogs to detect the coronavirus. Some dogs have been supplied by the organisation Blind Dogs because they failed in that project but were obviously highly suitable to be retrained as coronavirus sniffer dogs. It is hoped that these dogs will be far more efficient at, for example, airports to detect a coronavirus infection in travellers. Currently testing is much slower than detection by trained working dogs such as were presented to her Royal Highness.
The dogs come from the charity Medical Detection Dogs. Two of the dogs, Basil and Bob met the Duchess of Cornwall at a busy Paddington station where they were keen to show off their skills to the Duchess and the Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Basil and Bob were able to quickly detect which of five volunteers were wearing items of clothing impregnated with the virus. Currently, the government is funding clinical trials in a collaboration between Medical Detection Dogs and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University.
In addition to airports it is hoped that the dogs will be employed at train stations and sporting venues. The Duchess has backed the work since 2014. It is hoped that the dogs will enable the screening of large numbers of people even when they are asymptomatic. Basil and Bob are being trained, I believe, at railway stations such as at Paddington and they will also be trained at a football stadium, a school and a shopping centre to see how they cope with distractions such as noise and food.
The chief executive of Medical Detection Dogs, Dr. Clare Guest, and its co-founder, said that it will be a game changer to spot people with the virus who are asymptomatic and do so so quickly.
Looking further afield, internationally, trials have taken place at Dubai airport in July when they were conducted by the local health authority. This trial was extended to other airports in the UAE and a land border crossing apparently. Finland is also running trials as are France, the United States, Australia and Lebanon.