Sniffing out the virus – Canine mass testing for COVID-19 piloted at YIT sites

YIT Koronakoirapilotti
YIT Koronakoirapilotti

What better use for a dog’s excellent sense of smell in these trying times than sniffing out the coronavirus among many other scents? This is precisely why we decided to deploy canine forces in the prevention of COVID-19.

“The fight against the coronavirus must be further intensified by all means available to us. It only takes a few minutes for a COVID smell detection dog to do dozens of tests, so it can be a great help in quickly detecting asymptomatic virus carriers. In our pilot, the dogs and their trainers can get the training and research material that they need,” explains Kaisa Kuvanto, YIT’s Head of Group Health and Safety, as she describes the pilot project being carried out jointly with Wise Nose ry., who train COVID smell detection dogs. 

The pilot involves several of YIT’s construction sites in the Helsinki metropolitan area. The main objective is to test the use of the olfactory sense of dogs with a large number of samples and to assess its rapid deployment in the prevention of COVID-19 infections. 

“There is clear scientific evidence that dogs are very successful in detecting various scents. Dogs trained by Wise Nose are able to detect the coronavirus in samples – up to several days faster than a laboratory test. Therefore, they can be useful for testing in places with large numbers of people where there is a risk of the virus spreading rapidly,” says Project Manager Heli Niuro from Wise Nose.

However, the dogs are not taken to the construction sites. Instead, used face masks are collected from the site workers. Workers remove their used masks and place them in sample jars. The samples are then delivered to Wise Nose’s COVID smell detection dog training centre, where Heppu, Kosti, Valo or any of the other smell detection dogs immediately get to work. The dogs work better in familiar surroundings, where they are not distracted by the hustle and bustle of the construction site. 

Anonymous, voluntary and responsible

The pilot is carried out anonymously: the sample jars are given number codes, which the test subjects can use to check the results of their samples when the results list is delivered to the site later on the same day. Participants will also receive instructions on what to do if the dog has marked the test as positive. 

“I hope that as many people as possible will participate in this anonymous pilot project. We only get a picture of the number of positive samples at the construction site level. We do not know the results of individuals. If there are several positive results at any one site, we will naturally consult the healthcare officials for further measures. Testing by dogs is not a substitute for a laboratory test, but it may prove useful, especially in detecting asymptomatic virus carriers and speeding up further measures,” Kaisa Kuvanto explains.

By collecting samples in a systematic way, we also help Wise Nose in the training of dogs by providing them with up-to-date training and research material. The use of dogs in similar tasks is a great opportunity for society at large. 

For further information, please contact: 
Kaisa Kuvanto, Head of Group Health and Safety, YIT Corporation, tel. +358 (0)40 519 5934,
Heidi Kauppinen, Communications Manager, YIT Corporation, tel. +358 (0)40 574 3170,

YIT is the largest Finnish and a significant North European urban developer and construction company. We create more sustainable, functional and attractive cities and living environments. We develop and build apartments, business premises and entire areas. We also specialise in demanding infrastructure construction. We own properties together with our partners, which supports the implementation of our significant development projects. We also provide our customers with services that increase the value of properties. We employ about 7,400 professionals in 10 countries: Finland, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. In 2020, our revenue amounted to approximately EUR 3.1 billion. YIT Corporation's share is listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Oy.