BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A team led by Zhong Nanshan, who is heading the National Health Commission's expert group fighting the novel coronavirus outbreak, has reportedly developed a robot that can collect samples from patients' throats.
Samples of saliva or respiratory secretions are necessary for testing to diagnose whether a person is infected with the virus or not.
But the process of collecting them is not without risks. A minor tear in a protective glove or neglect in the handling of samples can expose medical workers to infection.
This is of special concern for front line medical workers who could do with more hands to ease their workload. And a doctor or medical worker getting infected effectively means further delay in patients getting medical attention.
A robot can minimise the risks doctors and nurses are exposed to. Actually, robots have been widely used in domestic and global medical practices for a long time.
Tiny robots have been used to clear blockages in blood vessels, while robotic arms are playing a bigger role in surgeries.
The use of robots by medical workers has become more pronounced during the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Apart from the sample-collecting robot Mr Zhong's team has built, robots have been used to sterilise hospitals and deliver necessary tools and materials inside the hospitals, minimising risks.
On Tuesday (Mar 10), the Chinese mainland reported 19 new infections, 17 of them in Hubei province. If that trend is any indication, the epidemic will be effectively controlled in the not-so-distant future.
It is hoped that the use of robots increases even after the epidemic is controlled, so as to better protect both medical workers and patients.
The writer is a columnist with the paper. China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media organisations.