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Covid sniffer dogs not on Department agenda

The Department of Health has no plans at the moment to develop a programme of training sniffer dogs to detect Covid-19, this newspaper has been told.

Dogs that have been trained to detect Covid-19 infection have been deployed at an airport for screening purposes in Dubai earlier this year. Recently, Helsinki Airport in Finland began deploying trained sniffer dogs to identify infected travellers.

Asked whether the Department had any similar plans the spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI) that it “monitors closely and learns from innovations deployed internationally” in response to the pandemic .

“At present there are no plans to use in Ireland a programme like the one described.”

A spokesperson for DAA the company which owns and and manages Dublin and Cork airports told this newspaper that “public health and travel policies regarding Covid-19 are decided by the Irish Government based on its health advice.”  

Separately MI reported in August that no animal had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus in Ireland.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) told this newspaper earlier this month this remains the case.

“Currently, there is no scientific or public health rationale for official testing of animals for SARS-CoV-2 virus in Ireland,” the spokesperson said.  

“However, the future testing of animals for SARS-CoV-2 virus could never be ruled out and DAFM, as the competent authority with overarching responsibility for animal welfare and disease control measures for animals in Ireland  would be the lead agency in the decision-making process in close co-operation and consultation with our colleagues in the public health authorities.

“It is important to recognise that Covid-19 is a disease of humans and testing facilities and equipment must be prioritised for human testing. To date, no animals have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus in Ireland.”

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