By Nuru Ahmed

Taking the fight against COVID-19 a notch higher, Rwanda will use five high-tech robots in its treatment centers.

“The use of robots in fighting against COVID-19 will help doctors and nurses in reducing their contact with COVID-19 patients and minimizing their risk of infection with the deadly virus,” said Daniel Ngamije the Rwandan Health Minister at Kanyinya hospital in Kigali.

The robots donated to the health ministry by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Rwandan Ministry of ICT and Innovation, have the capacity to screen 50 to 150 people per minute, deliver food and medication to patients’ rooms, capture data and notify officers on duty about detected abnormalities, said Ngamije.

The smart mobile robots have functions like facial recognition, temperature screening, monitoring patient’s status and keeping medical records of the patients, he added.

“Because of these capabilities, they will enhance health workers’ efficiency and effectiveness in fighting COVID-19 in our country,” noted Ngamije.

He also said that the robots will facilitate the transformation from paper-based to digital patients’ files.

“It is exciting to see different institutions join hands to seek solutions to address COVID-19. It is yet another milestone that technology is used to improve healthcare in Rwanda,” said the Minister.

“Medics and other frontline workers visit patients’ rooms many times to deliver medication, meals, carry out tests, among other things and this may increase their risk of contracting the virus.”

He added that the robots will replace this kind of work to curb the spread of the virus.

The robots have been given Rwandan names: Akazuba (meaning sun in English), Ikizere (meaning hope), Mwiza (meaning beautiful), Ngabo (meaning shield) and Urumuri (meaning light).

Paula Ingabire, the ICT and Innovation Minister of Rwanda said, “The infectious nature of COVID-19 calls for technological innovations to tackle the pandemic. This is why Rwanda has introduced robots and drones among other high-tech initiatives to enhance efficiency in the fight.”

Stephen Rodriques the UNDP representative said the project marks the “beginning of a great collaboration that’s part of a broader partnership” with the East African country. 

Rwanda, a major innovation and technology hub in Africa, has recorded 308 coronavirus cases so far, with zero deaths and 209 recoveries, according to official figures.To date, more than 52,300 tests have been carried out in the country of over 12 million people.