The Asian Age

Thai ‘ninja robots’ to aid virus battle


Bangkok: Thai hospitals are deploying “ninja robots” to measure fevers and protect the health of overburden­ed medical workers on the frontlines of the coronaviru­s outbreak. First built to monitor recovering stroke patients, the machines have been quickly repurposed to help fight the disease, which has so far killed nearly 9,000 people around the world.

They have helped staff at four hospitals in and around Bangkok to reduce their risk of infection by allowing doctors and nurses to speak to patients over a video link.

“They can stand outside the room and communicat­e with patients inside through the robot,” said Viboon Sangveraph­unsiri of Chulalongk­orn University.

Later models will be designed to bring food and medicine to patients, and could also eventually be

An engineerin­g student configures a medical robot modified to screen and observe coronaviru­s patients at in Bangkok on Wednesday.

used to disinfect hospital wards, Viboon told AFP.

His engineerin­g team is racing to build more “ninjas” — known as such because of their matte black exterior — for another 10 hospitals around the country.

Thailand has more than 200 confirmed Covid-19 infections, including at least one death. More than 40 have recovered and been discharged from hospital.

Authoritie­s recently ordered the closure of bars, massage parlours and entertainm­ent venues to help prevent new cases.

New rules also require visitors entering the country to produce a health certificat­e. Officials have so far stopped short of imposing the full lockdowns seen in other countries in a bid to contain damage to Thailand’s crucial tourism sector. But the government’s reassuranc­es that the pandemic is under control have not stopped bouts of panic buying in grocery stores.

Doctors are also urging Thais to stay home to curb the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile Bangkok’s governor Asawin Kwanmuang is warning business owners that they face heavy fines, even jail if they disobey orders to close. And in an apparent warning to police, he said “the same applies” to those responsibl­e for ensuring the ban is enforced. Thailand, the first country outside China to confirm a new coronaviru­s case, reported many new cases on Tuesday, bringing its total to 200.

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