31st of December, 2019 marked the date where several pneumonia cases arose in Wuhan City, in the Hubei Province of China. The World Health Organization (WHO) was the first to recognize that this case did not match any other known viruses. After going through some research, the Chinese authorities later confirmed that it is a new virus and it is temporarily named as “2019-nCOV”. Later, WHO named it as “COVID-19” which stands for ‘CoronaVirus Disease 2019’ on the 11th of February.
The virus somehow spread rapidly and on the 11th of March, the United Nations agency responsible for international public health declared it a pandemic. The government is currently committed to tackle this problem by reducing the number of new cases rapidly.
COVID-19 in Malaysia
On the 25th of January, Malaysia announced the first COVID-19 case involving three tourists from Singapore who entered Malaysia through Johor on the 23rd of January. The first wave of these cases were detected on the 16th February where the cases rose to 22. By the 27th, the second wave started after 11 days of no new cases being reported. The number of affected people had risen to more than 1000 cases later on.
The Malaysian government took proactive actions to fight over the number of new cases by imposing a two-week RMO (Restriction of Movement Order) which started on the 18th of March and will end on the 31st of March. However, the number of new cases is not reducing; hence the government decided on a two-week extension of RMO, which will end by the 14th of April.
In this hectic situation, solutions are needed to effectively combat the disease. One of the solutions is by preventing individuals from being in direct or indirect contact with the virus. Besides quarantining the infected ones, there are risks that the healthy ones might have been infected. For example, nurses might be infected while they were serving their patients; a bus driver has the chance to contact the infected one in the bus; an officer has a risk too during the disinfection activity. Considering the aforementioned risks, the usage of the Autonomous mobile robot (AMR) could be a helping hand in replacing humans to do all these high infection risk tasks. Robots are immune to the virus and they can be run in a long period of time. You can learn more about AMR here AMR: The new look of AGV.
How can AMR help to fight against Virus?
AMR can potentially assist frontliners to fight COVID-19 in many areas such as to carry out disinfection activity, temperature measurement at public space, medicine delivery in hospitals and food delivery. Other advantages are outlined here: Advantages and Disadvantages of AMR.
Disinfection is one of the main activities in combating COVID-19. Certain areas where the risk of infection is high have to be disinfected, such as hospitals, markets and public transports. For example, in disinfecting a bus, the process involved people to spray disinfectant on the entire surface in the bus before wiping them down. One disinfect process will take around 40 minutes with two human powers. Plus, there are always certain corners that cannot be reached or covered by humans.
Another great alternative is by using the Ultraviolet (UV) Rays which can disinfect the area in five minutes only (source). According to the latest diagnosis and treatment guideline of the novel coronavirus released by the National Commission, the virus is sensitive to UV light and heat. In other words, UV radiation can eliminate the virus effectively. As stated in the guideline, UV light with an intensity of over 1.5 watts per square meter can be used to disinfect indoor spaces. Ventilation should be done to a room after UV disinfection, and people are suggested to enter the room 30 minutes after the process. Although it is effective to kill the virus by using UV lamps, the usage of UV lamps should be cautious as UV radiation can result in skin irritation. Thus it is not suitable for sterilising hands or other parts of the skin (source).
Although UV is able to disinfect the area in five minutes, it requires manual labor to transport the platform from one location to another. In addition, UV rays require a 30 minutes settling time which increases the cycle time. This is where the AMR has the advantage as AMR is able to complete the process automatically without involving any human presence. This also minimizes the chance of infection and reduces exposure to the UV light too. The figure below illustrates the proposed design of AMR with UV and Spraying disinfect equipment.
DF is looking for partners – it could be you!
As the government has pulled out tremendous actions to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases, DF intends to contribute an effort for the government in fighting COVID-19 by developing solutions like autonomous UV disinfecting, disinfectant spraying or temperature reading by using AMR. We are actively looking for partners who are experts especially in the field of cleaning, disinfection, sterilisation or hospital operation to collaborate with us to make this project a success. We do hope that we can help to eliminate the virus with these innovations. Feel free to contact us at [email protected] if you are interested to explore further. Take care and stay safe.
Figure: Illustration shows proposed AMR design in performing autonomous disinfection using UV and Spraying.
Co-authored by: Dr Yeong Che Fai I Noor Atikah Soleha Mad Alim I Ong Wei Lin I Ow Zi Yang I Aliya Binti Khairuddin
Illustration by: Ken Wong I Robert Ting I Muhammad Sofwan Bin Zamri