Airport Thermal Cameras Seek Coronavirus Infections

Airports have deployed thermal cameras to screen body temperatures
lax airport at night

At the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), thermal cameras are checking airline passengers' body temperatures throughout the Tom Bradley International Terminal and arrival areas, as an additional layer of safety.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced in a press statement on June 22, 2020, "This is a voluntary program with signage in LAX alerting passengers where the pilot will take place.”

"To be clear, these thermal camera temperature checks will not replace other safety measures. We're not saying that you only can rely on this.”.

Thermal imaging cameras detect infrared radiation and can measure the surface temperatures of people.

The LAX screening program is a partnership with the Carlyle Airport Group, through Schneider Electric, which will provide 3 types of cameras to help determine which is most accurate and effective at detecting potentially ill people.

The equipment being tested is on loan at no cost to LAX.

If a passenger is found to have a body temperature of 100.4 or higher, LAX staff will request a 2nd screening. And, that passenger could be referred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) staff, which could instruct that person into quarantine.

While cameras can detect elevated skin temperatures, that does not necessarily mean that a person has a fever related to a SARS-CoV-2 infection or COVID-19 disease.

The CDC’s Director Robert Redfield recently explained last month that as many as 25 percent of people infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, which means finding disease-spreaders at airports is difficult.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, airport staffers have installed hundreds of hand sanitizer stations, conducted deep cleanings of the airport, and focused on sanitizing high-touch facilities such as elevators and doors.

Thermal cameras are also being tested at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., and at Tampa International Airport in Florida.

Previously, the Hong Kong International Airport began testing a small booth to take a person’s temperature before a person is allowed to exit the security area.

And Rome’s Fiumicino Airport is testing helmets equipped with thermal cameras, worn by its staff, to detect travelers’ temperatures.

The accuracy of a thermal camera’s reading is affected by several factors, including the camera’s distance from the target, stated an article in the Future in Privacy.

One manufacturer suggests that the camera should be as close to the target as possible, and telephoto lenses might be appropriate for longer-range readings. 

The camera’s functions and settings can affect its accuracy as well and need to be appropriately configured.

Since thermal imaging cannot distinguish fevers caused by COVID-19 from other causes of high body temperature, equating raised body temperature with the coronavirus would lead to many people falsely being identified as COVID-19 infected and facing the associated downsides of that label, including ‘discrimination’, stated a recent Washington Post news article.

Vax-Before-Travel publishes international travel news.