Thermal cameras at border checkpoints not effective, says Health Board

Thermal cameras at Port of Tallinn.
Thermal cameras at Port of Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Health experts consider monitoring people's body temperatures at border checkpoints to be an ineffective means of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus and other infectious diseases. Attention at the border should be paid primarily to informing people, said Martin Kadai, head of emergency services at the Health Board.

"It has been assessed to be a relatively ineffective measure," Kadai said on Vikerraadio morning program "Vikerhommik" when the hosts asked about the thermal cameras.

According to the Health Board official, people need to understand that infected people don't always have a fever; a fever has been present in 88 percent of cases. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) also has an incubation period.

"Someone will come across the border not displaying a single symptom," he warned. "Measuring [body] temperature at a border checkpoint has very limited efficacy."

What is important to the Health Board, however, is actively keeping people informed, which is the authority's priority at border checkpoints as well.

The decision to install thermal imaging cameras at the Port of Tallinn, Tallinn Airport as well as land border crossing points was not made by the Health Board.

"The Health Board's priority is to quickly identify, advise and monitor infected persons," Kadai said. "Scientifically, this is the most effective measure for avoiding infectious diseases."

Speaking on "AK. Nädal" on Sunday night about the thermal cameras installed at the Port of Tallinn and Tallinn Airport, Andres Merits, professor of applied virology at the University of Tartu (TÜ), said that they aren't useful, but that they aren't doing any harm either, adding that the same goes for taking the temperature of bus travelers at border checkpoints.

Thermal imaging cameras are registering the body temperatures of arrivals in Estonia beginning at 38 degrees Celsius. All passengers arriving at the Port of Tallinn without a vehicle are currently being subject to thermal camera monitoring.

The cameras at Tallinn Airport were purchased and are being maintained by the airport itself. The cameras cost the airport an estimated €30,000.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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