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The Government of Rwanda and UNDP launch disinfecting robots to fight the spread of COVID-19 and reduce hospital acquired infections

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage Africa and the world in general, the Government of Rwanda through The Ministry of ICT and Innovation and The Ministry of Health in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Rwanda and the Government of Japan, have deployed three additional state-of-the art robots to reinforce its efforts against the virus.

The new robots that have been deployed at Nyarugenge District Hospital, are cutting-edge Ultra Violet (UV-C) light robots which will help in cleaning and disinfecting treatment centres, hospitals and places of mass gathering such as markets, offices as means to limit the spread of the COVID-19.

The acquired UV-C Robots have unique features which include the UV-C lamps that emit ultraviolet lights destroying deadly microorganisms that may be missed during the manual cleaning process, hence helping to reduce infection rates for patients and healthcare workers.

Among other capabilities these robots have is the capacity to undertake speedy cleaning and disinfecting patient and operating rooms, labor and delivery, ICU rooms, isolation discharge rooms and other indoor spaces. On average, one robot can disinfect one room in 32 minutes. They can also kill virus other than SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Honorable Paula INGABIRE, the Minister of ICT and Innovation says: “I would like to extend our gratitude to the UNDP and the Government of Japan for their continued support towards our efforts and desire to leverage cutting-edge technologies in the fight against COVID-19. These Robots offer a faster, more effective and less labour-intensive disinfection alternative to manual cleaning.

“The GoR has placed ICT at the centre of its transformation and the health sector is a priority sector where technology is being used to provide better health outcomes through improved service delivery, patient experience, health and safety”; adds Minister INGABIRE.

“The introduction of robots in our COVID-19 case management has contributed to limiting human interaction between healthcare providers and patients,” said Dr. Sabin NSANZIMANA; Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC).

“As we introduce the use of robots in the Infection Prevention Control activities we intend to even minimize risks of infection of our IPC staffs as they conduct decontamination procedures,” he added.

Mr. Maxwell Gomera, Resident Representative of UNDP Rwanda, notes “Despite the darkness of the past year, there have been signs of hope, including from robotic science. At UNDP Rwanda, we are pleased to partner once again with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation to deploy three UV-C disinfection robots that will be used to disinfect treatment centers and public places to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In addition to vaccines, these Robots represent yet another great triumph of modern science, and one that will protect frontline workers and prevent spread of diseases.”

“Congratulations to the Government of Rwanda for once again moving forcefully to confront the COVID-19 pandemic.” Adds Mr. Maxwell Gomera

This marks another milestone that Rwanda has achieved towards harnessing emerging technologies to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, after eight months since the five smart anti-epidemic robots were deployed to minimize contact with patients and therefore reducing the risk of contamination of health professionals.

Named in Kinyarwanda, Akazuba, Ikirezi, Mwiza, Ngabo, and Urumuri, the robots are currently supporting doctors and nurses at the designated treatment centres and other screening sites including the Kigali International Airport where Akazuba and Urumuri are deployed to screen 50 to 150 people per minute and report abnormalities to officers on duty.

They were acquired through a partnership between the UNDP Rwanda Accelerator Lab (AccLab) and the Ministry of ICT and Innovation.

Rwanda has been ranked sixth among the countries that have handled COVID-19 outbreak best, according to the COVID Performance Index, by the Lowy Institute. However, the country continues to strategize and to explore new innovative approaches to detect and slow down the spread of the virus, despite the new surge in cases in recent weeks. Using robots to disinfect public places is a result of another digital experiment between the Government of Rwanda through the Ministry of ICT and Innovation and the UNDP Rwanda Accelerator Lab.

These UV-C Robots aim to complement the work of medical personnel and cleaning staff at the treatments centers and other designated places by providing a fully comprehensive infection control and prevention solution.