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Rwanda Officially Deploys Robots In COVID-19 Fight

by Edmund Kagire
8:16 pm

 Rwanda on Tuesday officially deployed five high tech robots which will be assisting doctors and frontline workers in the country’s fight against New Coronavirus. 

The robots were handed over to the Ministry of Health by the Ministry of ICT and Innovation in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Rwanda at Kanyinya Treatment Centre where they have begun work.

 The five high-tech anti – epidemic robots, which have been given Rwandan names, Urumuri, Icyizere, Kazuba, Ngabo and Mwiza, will be used in the management of COVID-19 in Rwanda treatment centres. 

The Ministry of Health said that because of their capabilities, the robots will increase timeliness and efficiency in fighting COVID19 as well as reduce exposure of health workers to possible infection of the pandemic. 

The Minister of Health Dr Daniel Ngamije while receiving the robots said the machines which use artificial intelligence to handle tasks are a major milestone in the country’s efforts to contain New Coronavirus, commending the partners who contributed to the procurement of the robots. 

“It is exciting to see different institutions join hands to seek solutions to address COVID19. It is yet another milestone in the use of technology to enhance health in Rwanda,” Dr. Ngamije said. 

The Ministry of Health said the high-tech robots have the capacity to screen 50 to 150 people per minute, deliver food and medication to patient rooms, capture data and notify officers on duty about detected abnormalities. 

“These robots will fasten service delivery while protecting our valuable health workers against COVID-19 exposure,” the Minister said, adding that they will be mainly used to screen temperature, monitor patient status and keeping medical records of COVID-19 patients.

 Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre said the robots which will mainly operate at Kanyinya Treatment Centre and stay in direct contact with the COVID-19 Command Centre located at Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village (KCEV) will help minimise contact and paper-based handling of cases. 

“There is nothing better than investing in good health. These robots will reduce the risk of exposure to COVID19 and also facilitate the transformation from paper based to digital patients’ files in Rwanda,” Dr Nsanzimana noted. 

By capturing data and notifying the officer on duty about detected abnormalities, the robots will support doctors and nurses at designated COVID-19 in the country. 

The robots, which are designed by ZoraBots Africa, a subsidiary of Netherlands-based Zora Robotics, have various advanced features which allow them to handle sensitive situations like fast spreading epidemics.

The company touts itself as the maker of the World’s most advanced humanoid robots which are active in Healthcare, Education and for Industrial use.

 Ahunna Eziakonwa, the Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa described the deployment of the robots as a major breakthrough.

“Breakthrough innovations such as these robots in Rwanda will help lead the way in response and recovery from COVID-19 pandemic in Africa. Excellent initiative to see from the Rwandan Government and UNDP,” she said.   

The UNDP Country Representative Stephen Rodriques said during the handover that he was deeply impressed by Rwanda’s appetite 4 innovation, saying that he was pleased to handover the robots and looks forward to the work they will do.

 “I am genuinely delighted to be here for this handover ceremony. Today marks another watershed moment in terms of innovation in Rwanda, and I am very proud that our team is part of this historical moment,” Rodriques said, commending the collaborative efforts and global solidarity to rein in the virus. 

He said UNDP will be handing over to Rwanda new lab equipment and ICU beds worth about $1m to assist the country in its efforts to save lives and contain the virus. According to available information, each robot cost approximately $30,000 minus shipping and maintenance costs.

 Several countries around the world are using robots to fight New Coronavirus where the machines are used to assist humans to contain the spread of the virus. Several countries including China, Japan, US, and UK have been deploying robots to handle risky tasks.

 Experts say robots have the potential to be deployed for disinfection, delivering medications and food, measuring vital signs, and assisting border controls. As epidemics escalate, the potential roles of robotics are becoming increasingly clear. 

“For disease prevention, robot-controlled non-contact ultraviolet (UV) surface disinfection is being used because COVID-19 spreads not only from person to person via close contact respiratory droplet transfer but also via contaminated surfaces,” a study published in the Science Robotics says.

  China is using robots to disinfect people and places, which has helped to contain the spread of the virus which was first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province of the Asian country.

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