Some robots battling spread of coronavirus may not be needed

Numerous robots have been used by healthcare workers battling the ongoing Wuhan coronavirus outbreak—but is such a precaution always necessary?

The advanced technology was used in the United States to treat the country’s first diagnosed coronavirus patient, and a hotel in Hangzhou, China, is using a robot to deliver meals to more than 300 people who have been quarantined in a hotel. In other parts of China, robots are transporting drugs to and from different parts of the hospital—and some machines are even used to clean areas where it is believed coronavirus exposure took place.

According to Chloe Kent, a technology writer for GlobalData, these precautions seem unnecessary, especially when one remembers that the quarantined people haven’t displayed any symptoms of the deadly disease.

“Even if the coronavirus can be spread by people with no symptoms, who may be infected for two to 14 days before they start to feel sick, people who are sneezing and coughing are far more likely to spread the disease,” Kent said in a statement. “Quarantining people for weeks on end who may not be ill, and going so far as to have a robot deliver their meals, may be a recipe for social tension.”

Kent added that these medical robots “are flashy and advanced,” and “their contributions should be welcomed” if they can truly make a difference. “But doubling down on practices like handwashing, and reinforcing the importance of clear international communication” are much more important when it comes to keeping the disease from spreading.

Additional AI in Healthcare coverage of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak can be read here and here.