COVID-19: Bahrain’s virus-fighting robot uses UV light to disinfect public spaces, offices


Abu Dhabi: A new COVID-19-fighting robot that emits ultraviolet (UV) light to disinfect public spaces and offices has been revealed in Bahrain.

The autonomous machine beams out short-wavelength UV which kills coronavirus particles by disrupting their DNA in a process known as ‘ultraviolet germicidal irradiation’.

A prototype designed by Fab Lab Bahrain, in collaboration with the country’s Ministry of Youth and Sports Innovation Centre, has so far been tested in industrial environments.

Video footage shows the robot zooming between desks at a commercial facility in the Middle East nation while blasting out virus-killing doses of UV light.

According to experts, the radiation emitted by UV light damages the genetic material of viruses and harms their ability to replicate.

Most viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, are covered with a thin membrane easily broken apart by UV rays.

Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at University of East Anglia, said: “That UV light inactivates SARS-CoV-2 is not surprising. UV inactivates most viruses very efficiently. Indeed, UV disinfection is widely used for disinfection of drinking water. Given the nature of coronaviruses we would expect them to be especially sensitive to disinfection by either hypochlorite (bleach) or UV light.”

It comes after Bahrain – which is fifth in the world for testing rates – deployed two robots on isolation wards to help frontline health workers deal with the ongoing global health crisis.

The robots, which speak 12 languages, can check body temperatures, administer medicines, serve meals and sterilise treatment rooms by beaming out pulses of ultraviolet light.

The AI-powered machines are also capable of identifying patients using facial recognition and can respond to voice commands from staff.

Dr. Waleed Al Manea, from Bahrain’s Health Ministry, dubbed the technology a “medical revolution”.

He said: “We have started using the robots in the isolation and treatment facilities as part of the experimental phase to use AI in the health sector. It is certainly a new medical revolution and we want to see how this benefits patients and staff. This new technology will help doctors and nurses as they can evaluate the effectiveness of the robots and help incorporate them in their daily work.”

Following an initial pilot phase, Bahrain plans to roll out the robots to hospitals nationwide.