JEDDAH: Saudi Customs officials are taking the lead in identifying air travelers harboring the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) — by using specially trained sniffer dogs.
The canine virus detectors are being drafted in at airports throughout the Kingdom to help pick up the scent of infected passengers.
Following the resumption of international flights, customs staff in Saudi Arabia are to use the animals as part of their efforts to stop the spread of the deadly virus.
The customs authority, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been training Jack Russell terriers and other breeds to recognize the odor of COVID-19.
“The training has been 80 percent successful,” said Mohammed Al-Salloum, director of the National Center for Living Means at Saudi Customs, adding that final preparations were being put in place for the dog teams to start work in airport terminals throughout the country.
Meanwhile, the Saudi Ministry of Health on Tuesday announced 1,342 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, taking the total number in the Kingdom to 281,435.
Of the latest cases, 97 were recorded in Riyadh, 56 in Makkah, 53 in Madinah and Hafr Al-Batin, and 51 in Dammam, with 40 percent of them women. There were 34,763 active cases, with most patients in a stable condition, and 1,983 critical.
The number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 increased to 243,688 with 1,635 of those being in the latest 24-hour period. The Kingdom reported 35 new COVID-19-related deaths, raising the overall toll to 2,984.
The ministry said it had carried out 54,325 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests over 24 hours taking the total number of checks conducted since the outbreak to 3,528,040.