China Focus: Modern technology aids China's epidemic fight

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HEFEI, May 9 (Xinhua) -- At an isolation hotel in Hefei, capital city of east China's Anhui Province, two small unmanned disinfection devices are using the elevator to make their way through a building. As they disinfect each corner of the building, an unmanned sweeper is not far behind.

"The unmanned disinfection device can disinfect 1,000 cubic meters of space every 15 minutes. Meanwhile, the sweeper can clean up 5,000 square meters per hour, which greatly reduces labor costs and the risk of cross-infection," said Ge Qing, general manager of the Hefei branch of IDRIVERPLUS, a company that provides multi-functional solutions for autonomous driving systems.

As sporadic resurgences of COVID-19 rage across China, modern technologies including unmanned devices and robots have played a key role in the country's fight against the coronavirus.

According to Ge, the company also developed unmanned patrol vehicles to ease the burden on staff at health checkpoints located at expressway entrances.

"Expressway entrances are among the key points of epidemic prevention and control. Unmanned patrol vehicles can measure the temperature of passing drivers and provide them with relevant information, which is vastly more efficient," said Ge, adding that such devices have been adopted in places such as Shanghai, Hebei, Yunnan and Xinjiang.

To address the delivery problem in the locked-down neighborhoods, unmanned delivery vehicles and drones have been deployed to meet the residents' daily needs while reducing human contact as much as possible.

In regions including south China's Guangdong Province and the eastern Chinese metropolis of Shanghai, driverless delivery vehicles have been used to hand out supplies, while drones help supervise prevention and control measures and send medication to those in need.

While China's quick response to battle the COVID-19 epidemic has helped accelerate the development of digital technologies, novel applications like health codes have highlighted the problem of the "digital divide". Many senior citizens find it difficult to access smartphone-based services.

Considering the dilemma faced by the elderly, some regions have developed targeted user-friendly devices to help bridge this gap.

At the entrance of the Second Affiliated Hospital of Anhui Medical University in Hefei, intelligent equipment allows the elderly to swipe their ID cards or simply look into the camera to quickly verify their health codes and enter the building.

"As some elders don't know how to use smartphones, we worked with a technology company to provide simple methods for the elderly to verify their health codes, which has not only been convenient but also increased the accuracy of verification," said Fang Gang with the hospital.

For Han Youhe, 69, such design is not only practical but also heartwarming.

"Verifying health codes is a must nowadays to enter any public place. Previously, I needed to ask others for help and I would even refrain from going out to avoid the trouble. But now I can simply swipe my ID card for verification, which is much more convenient," Han said.

In order to promote the application of cutting-edge technology in epidemic prevention and control, regions across China have rolled out policies to encourage science and technology enterprises to join the fight against the epidemic.

Shanghai has launched supporting policies covering fields including R&D, start-up services, finance and given out "innovation coupons" and reduced relevant tax and rent for tech companies.

The southern Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen has also arranged special funds to carry out key anti-epidemic projects based on science and technology, while providing subsidies for successful technology applications.

"Science and technology is both a powerful weapon and the strongest shield against the epidemic. In many links of COVID-19 prevention and control, science and technology can help us solve problems in an efficient and precise manner. Facing such a unique situation, tech companies should shoulder their social responsibilities and provide support," Ge said. Enditem

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