Medical Detection Dogs said it has trained dogs to detect some cancers, Parkinson’s disease and malaria, and that its research shows dogs can be trained to detect the odour of disease at the equivalent dilution of one teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic-sized swimming pools of water.

Dr Claire Guest, co-founder and chief executive of Medical Detection Dogs, said: “They have the potential to help by quickly screening people, which could be vital in the future.

“We are sure our dogs will be able to find the odour of COVID-19 and we will then move into a second phase to test them in live situations, following which we hope to work with other agencies to train more dogs for deployment.