Japan studies the use of robots to test the virus for the Olympics

Japan studies the use of Robots to test the Virus for the Olympics

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TOKYO, Jan 19- Japan’s Health Minister watched a demonstration Tuesday of a prototype of an automated COVID-19 testing machine that uses a robotic arm to take a sample from a person’s nose and can deliver results in about 80 minutes.

The robotic system, built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Inc, fits in a standard shipping container that can be transported on a truck and mounted at stadiums, theme parks and other mass events, the company said. “Looking at the global trend, we need to increase the number of people getting tested, and the demand for preventive tests is increasing,” Health Minister Norihisa Tamura told reporters during the demonstration.
The Administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been criticized for a dearth of evidence in Japan. His government is under pressure to prove it has the pandemic under control less than 200 days before the start of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo – already delayed for a year – and vaccinations have yet to begin. Using robotic test systems can help save human resources and improve overall accuracy, said Tamura, who did not compromise on using Kawasaki Heavy’s system.
The prototype facility that was demonstrated Tuesday uses human-powered robotic arms to collect samples from individuals and perform Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. The system is housed in 40-foot mobile containers that could process up to 2,000 samples every 16 hours. Its developers say it offers higher scale efficiency and better protection for medical workers, who can even operate tests remotely.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Japan has conducted less testing than other major economies, focusing on infection hotspots and tracking viruses. Japan conducts about 55,000 PCR tests a day, less than half its capacity, according to government data. With 337,000 cases and 4,598 deaths, Japan has weathered the pandemic better than most major economies. Still, the country is trapped by a third wave of infections that has proven to be longer and more deadly than previous ones, prompting the government to announce a new state of emergency this month.
Suga has said that his government intends to approve the first vaccine against COVID-19 and that the inoculations can begin at the end of February, which would be a delay of months compared to many other countries.
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