Doctors look for help from sleek new robots

One of the six robots of the Circolo di Varese hospital checks a patient. (AP)
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Updated 05 April 2020

Doctors look for help from sleek new robots

  • The doctors say the robots bring smiles from younger patients

VARESE: The shiny new robots gently check the pulses of highly infectious patients on life support in the Italian epicenter of COVID-19.
The doctors and nurses love them because they also help save their own lives.
Italians have seen the world around them turn unrecognizable from the various lockdowns and social distancing measures used to fight the new coronavirus outbreak.
But little appears to have pained them as much as seeing dozens of doctors and nurses die while trying to save the tens of thousands of patients who have suddenly ended up in hospitals across Italy’s pandemic-hit north.
The country’s medical association said Friday that at least 70 medics have died from various causes since Italy recorded the first official COVID-19 death on February 21.
The fear is that an overwhelming majority of the 70 would still be alive today had they been better protected against the coronavirus.
This helps explain why the doctors are nurses in a hospital near Italy’s mountainous border with Switzerland are laughing behind their face masks while posing for photos with their new robot friends.
The Varese hospital has received six of the sleek and slightly human-looking machines on wheels.
Some are white and have screens and various sensors in place of a human head.
Others are simpler and look a little like a black broomstick on wheels.
The doctors say the robots bring smiles from younger patients.
But their real purpose is to help save doctors from both catching and spreading the disease.
“Robots are tireless assistants that can’t get infected, that can’t get sick,” said the Circolo Hospital’s intensive care unit director Francesco Dentali.
“Doctors and nurses have been hit hard by this virus. The fact that the robots can’t get infected is a great achievement.”
The readings from the machines allow medics to stay out of the intensive care units and monitor patients’ vital signs on computer screens in separate rooms.
Italy’s death toll, the worst globally, has reached 14,681 and is on course to top 15,000 this weekend.
Doctors doubt the official figures and think the real number of dead may be twice as high in Varese’s Lombardy region.
Italy is expected to remain under a general lockdown at least through the end month.


UK to reopen thousands of shops in easing of coronavirus lockdown, says Boris Johnson

Updated 25 May 2020

UK to reopen thousands of shops in easing of coronavirus lockdown, says Boris Johnson

  • From June 1, outdoor markets and car showrooms could be reopened
  • Johnson is keen to restart an economy which has been all but shut down since Britain entered a lockdown

LONDON: Britain will reopen thousands of high street shops, department stores and shopping centers next month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday, setting out a timetable for businesses as part of moves to ease the coronavirus lockdown.
He told a news conference that from June 1, outdoor markets and car showrooms could be reopened as soon as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines, and all other non-essential retail from June 15 if the government’s tests are met.
Johnson is keen to restart an economy which has been all but shut down since Britain entered a lockdown to try to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, but also fears a second peak of infection if measures are eased too quickly.

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READ MORE: Aide to British PM Dominic Cummings says he doesn’t regret COVID-19 lockdown trip

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“Today, I want to give the retail sector notice of our intentions to reopen shops, so they too can get ready,” Johnson said. “There are careful but deliberate steps on the road to rebuilding our country.”
The government said shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, would be expected to be able to reopen from June 15, giving them three weeks to prepare.
It said that businesses would only be able to open from those dates once they had completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks.
“The high street sits at the heart of every community in the country,” Business minister Alok Sharma said in a statement.
“Enabling these businesses to open will be a critical step on the road to rebuilding our economy, and will support millions of jobs across the UK.”