Robots on hand to greet coronavirus patients in hotels

24 Sep 2020 1:30 PM
Coronavirus patients with light symptoms arriving to remain at several Tokyo hotels are likely to get a good start from a nice surprise - a robot greeter in the lobby.

Japan is currently using hotels to house patients who've tested positive for the coronavirus but whose symptoms are too light to need hospitalization, and several in the administrative centre of Tokyo just opened on Friday feature robots to help lighten the responsibility on nurses.

In one, a big-eyed robot named Pepper - appropriately wearing a protective mask - stood waiting to welcome visitors.

"Please, wear a mask inside," it said in a perky voice. "I am hoping you recover as quickly as possible."

Other messages include "I pray the spread of the condition is contained at the earliest opportunity," "Let's join our hearts and complete this together" and "I am cheering for you! Please get lots of rest when you are here and recover!"

Pepper is not the only real robot at the job in the hotel in the Ryogoku portion of Tokyo. A cleaning robot, Whiz, with the latest in artificial intelligence has been deployed to clean several elements of the hotel, including riskier "red zone" areas where staff access is limited.

In an effort to decrease the burden on the medical system, Japan has secured more than 10,000 resort rooms around the nation to put up patients with lighter symptoms, based on the Health Ministry.

The Ryogoku hotel, where patients started checking in on Friday, can accommodate about 300 people. Two nurses will be on hand night and day, while a doctor may also be present throughout the day.