Federal government sniffs out trainers who can teach dogs to screen for coronavirus

The federal government is sniffing around for trainers to develop methods that can be used to help detector dogs screen incoming travellers for the novel coronavirus.

Those looking to apply for the position can do so online until next week.

“In the case of SARS-CoV-2, it is assumed that the virus itself will not be the training aid as there is no current evidence to suggest that the virus will have a unique volatile organic compound (VOC) signature,” the job posting read.

“Therefore, the expected focus will be the VOC signature directly or indirectly related to the host inflammatory response induced by SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

Coronavirus-sniffing dogs have already been deployed in Finland, where four dogs of different breeds trained by Finland’s Smell Detection Association started working on Sept. 21 at the Helsinki Airport as part of a four-month trial of an alternative testing method.

If it works, Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, a University of Helsinki professor of equine and small animal medicine, previously told Global News “it will be a good (coronavirus) screening method at any other places,” including hospitals, ports, elderly people’s homes, sports venues and cultural events.

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German scientists have said that dogs could be trained to sniff out COVID-19 in just one week of training, according to a study published July 23. Using eight dogs from the country’s armed forces, German university researchers said the dogs were able to sniff out the saliva of more than 1,000 healthy and infected people.

The job posting came as Canada marked a grim milestone, surpassing 300,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

On Sunday, four provinces reported record-breaking numbers of confirmed cases of the virus, including Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Should the country “continue on the current pace,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer said Friday the country could see daily case numbers increase to more than 10,000 by early December.

Canada has extended its land border restrictions with the United States until late November, however, the border closures do not cover trade or travel by air. Currently, those looking to fly to Canada must meet the the federal government’s exemption requirements outlined in orders banning most non-essential travel in order to enter the country.

As of Nov. 21, all international travellers to Canada will be required to submit a quarantine plan and self-assessment through the ArriveCAN app before boarding a flight.

Over the summer, the Canadian Border Services Agency said international air travel to Canada was continuing to rise in volume, despite federal border and COVID-19 restrictions. This included roughly 91,300 travellers during the months of June and July, the agency said.

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