Rwanda’s government deployed three UVC light robots to a state hospital in Kigali on Tuesday to disinfect the facility and help protect frontline health workers from the Chinese coronavirus.
“The new robots are cutting-edge THOR UVC robots which will help in cleaning and disinfecting treatment centers, hospitals and places of mass gathering, such as markets, offices or borders as means to limit the spread of the Covid-19 [coronavirus],” Rwanda’s health ministry said in a statement.
Rwanda’s federal government assigned the three robots to the newly opened Nyarugenge District Hospital, located in the national capital of Kigali.
“This is the second time the country deploys robots to minimize contact between frontline workers and persons infected with the virus,” Rwandan newspaper the New Times noted on Tuesday.
Rwanda received funding for the disinfecting robots through a partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The robots sterilize their surrounding environment by emitting UVC (ultraviolet light). Certain wavelengths of UVC light have been proven to destroy bacteria, viruses, and other microbes by damaging their DNA and RNA, which prevents them from reproducing. Unlike UVA and UVB light, commonly known for causing sunburns on peoples’ skin, UVC light “is completely absorbed by our atmosphere and never reaches the surface of the earth. Therefore, UVC light is just as novel to SARS-CoV-2 [coronavirus] as the virus is to humans,” according to an article featured by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) last summer.
“According to the International Ultraviolet Association, it is generally accepted that a dose of 40 mJ·cm−2 of 254 nm light will kill at least 99.99 percent of ‘any pathogenic microorganism,'” the article states.
Rwanda’s government has officially recorded 16,941 infections and 226 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus since it began tallying its cases on March 14, 2020. Many African nations lack the funds and infrastructure to administer significant numbers of coronavirus tests to their population. This means that Rwanda and many other countries on the African continent may have much higher rates of coronavirus than officially documented. International health bodies have accused the governments of some African nations, such as Tanzania, of reporting coronavirus caseload statistics that are much lower than actual figures.
“The official numbers make it seem as though the illness has skirted much of Africa, but the real picture is certain to be worse,” World Health Organization (W.H.O.) special envoy Samba Sow said last summer, warning of a possible “silent epidemic” of coronavirus on the African continent.