Thailand Deploys ‘Ninja Robots’ Against Virus

BANGKOK (AFP) — Thai hospitals are deploying “ninja robots” to measure fevers and protect the health of overburdened medical workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak.

Built to monitor recovering stroke patients, the machines have been repurposed to help fight the disease, which has killed nearly 9,000 people around the world.

U.S. surgeons use a high-tech camera to do cancer surgery in Philadelphia. Thailand is using robots to enable doctors to avoid in-person contact with patients. (AP photo)

They help 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 eventually be used to disinfect hospital wards, Viboon said.

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 parlors and entertainment venues to help prevent new cases.

New rules also require visitors entering the country to produce a health certificate.

Officials so far have stopped short of imposing the full lockdowns seen in other countries, in a bid to contain damage to Thailand’s crucial tourism sector, which accounts for 10% or more of its gross national product.

The government’s reassurances that the pandemic is under control have not stopped bouts of panic buying in grocery stores.

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

© Agence France-Presse

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