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Rwanda has enlisted anti-epidemic robots in its fight against coronavirus

Posted May 25, 2020 6:32 a.m. EDT

— Rwanda has introduced robots as part of its fight against coronavirus.

With 314 confirmed cases of the virus as of May 22, the East African country has enlisted the help of five anti-epidemic robots to battle the virus.

The robots were donated by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to the Kanyinya treatment center that treats Covid-19 patients in the capital city, Kigali.

The robots -- named Akazuba, Ikirezi, Mwiza, Ngabo, and Urumuri -- were received by the country's Minister of Health and Minister of ICT and Innovation last week.

They will be used for mass temperature screening, monitoring patient status, and keeping medical records of Covid-19 patients, according to Rwanda's Ministry of ICT and Innovation.

Keeping healthworkers safe

The robots perform a number of tasks relating to managing coronavirus. They can screen up to 150 people every minute for symptoms of the virus such as high temperature and dry cough.

According to Dr. Daniel Ngamije, Rwanda's minister of health, they also have the capacity to capture sound and visual data of patients and can notify health workers on detected abnormalities.

"These robots will perform temperature screening in our treatment centers. The robots will detect people walking in not wearing masks so that with the voice, the command post can quickly be informed and respond," he said.

More than 90,000 health workers worldwide have contacted the Covid-19 in the course of treating affected patients. To reduce these numbers, the Rwandan government wants its health workers to have limited physical contact with patients under their care.

The robots have the capacity to deliver medicine, food, and other essentials in place of frontline workers to Covid-19 patients undergoing treatment, Ngamije said.

They are programmed to communicate properly and can also educate health workers and patients on the dangers of the virus and how to stay safe, he added.

Robotics engineers from the UNDP will train staff of the Rwandan Ministry of health on how to use the robots so they can put them to work.

Robots fighting Covid-19

Rwanda is not the first country to use robots in managing the spread of coronavirus.

During Tunisia's lockdown in April, police robots were deployed to patrol areas in the country's capital city to ensure that residents were observing the lockdown.

They were controlled by officers who checked the ID of residents found wandering through the robot's camera.

And in January, doctors used a robot to treat the first person in the US to get coronavirus. The robot in a hospital in Seattle was employed to check the man's vitals, limiting contact with health workers.

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