Dogs trained to detect COVID-19 infection in humans are increasingly being used across Europe. Some trials have been successful, as in the case of airports in Finland and France.
Dogs trained to detect COVID-19 infection sniff the sweat of humans; if there is an ongoing infection, it releases metabolic residues which end up in a person’s sweat and can therefore be sniffed out by a dog trained for that purpose. According to a French study, dogs can sniff out infection with a success rate of around 95%, meaning that it is more effective than some COVID-19 tests (swabs).
The use of such dogs could be vital in places of transit, such as stations and airports, and at events such as shows.
In view of this:
1. Does the Commission not think it might be helpful to take an in-depth look at the issue of ‘anti-COVID’ dogs, by promoting studies on their effectiveness and role?
2. Does it not think that their use could be an additional weapon for Member States when it comes to tracing contacts?
3. Would it not be important, in the Commission’s view, to launch pilot projects to test it out in practice, at the European level, by using these dogs at airports?
The Commission is aware of reports on the use of dogs to detect persons affected with COVID-19. Under Horizon 2020 programme, research is ongoing in the area of pandemics’ preparedness and response(1). In this respect, the Commission will encourage research projects to consider ‘anti-COVID’ dogs in testing/demonstration exercises.
The European External Action Service has also facilitated dissemination of information on this topic(2). The Commission will take this information, along with other relevant information, into account when considering priorities for EU funding of studies on COVID-19.
Member States have the responsibility for health services and medical care and for contact tracing of COVID-19. The Commission is working intensively to support Member States to combat COVID-19 and to assist in the coordination of measures.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has provided guidance on contact tracing which is an essential component of strategies to combat COVID-19(3). Currently there is relatively little information on the effectiveness of dogs in contact tracing compared to other methods.
However, the Commission in collaboration with ECDC will keep this topic under review and arrange for guidance to be updated if needed.
Member States are responsible for travel related measures relating to protection of public health. The Commission is reviewing the information from Member States on the use of dogs at airports with a view to examining what further action, if any, to support their use, might be appropriate.