Vancouver liquor store turns to thermal cameras as COVID-19 defence

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As British Columbia begins to look towards a gradual reopening of the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, one Vancouver liquor store is turning to technology.

Value on Liquor Store on Southwest Marine Drive has installed a thermal camera designed to scan customers’ body temperatures.

The store says the technology will be used to check the temperature of employees before they start their shifts, along with anyone else who enters the store.

“The feedback has been fantastic, the staff love it,” said manager Abri van den Berg.

“The system functions by itself, it doesn’t require a staff member to monitor it.”

READ MORE: B.C. man in hot water for filming himself ‘investigating’ COVID-19 test site, hospital

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The technology is made by a company called Hikvision, and has been deployed in China, the U.S. and Eastern Canada.

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“It’s been set up to give a pre-alarm at 37.5 C that you’re starting to have an elevated temperature,” said John Frostad with Secure City Systems.

“At 38 degrees the system will give an audible warning to the staff here that somebody has come through the door with an elevated temperature.”

Temperature checks have been touted as a possible way to help stop the spread of the virus, as scientists race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has said when his state reopens, workplaces may be required to check workers’ temperatures.

READ MORE: Temperature check please: B.C. restaurants pitch plan to reopen amid COVID-19

Canadian Asian grocery chain T&T Supermarkets is offering temperature checks for customers, and the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association is recommending staff temperature checks as a part of its proposal to reopen restaurants.

However, the effectiveness of the checks is not universally accepted.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry expressed her reservations about the process during her April 20 briefing.

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“I don’t actually feel that temperature screening is particularly helpful,” said Henry.

“We know that with this virus, some people can have very mild symptoms. About two-thirds of people to three quarters have a fever at some point. But not having a fever doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily safe.”

Other potential symptoms of the virus include headaches, loss of smell and taste, chest pains and diarrhea.

Henry argues that the best way to protect from the virus continues to be hygiene — including hand washing, not touching one’s face and coughing into a mask or sleeve — and avoiding non-essential travel.

She also remains adamant that anyone who feels ill for any reason should stay home at all costs.

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