Robot vs human? Shanghai is testing throat swab robots to help with nucleic acid testing

Huang Yixuan
Shanghai is exploring throat swab robots to lessen the load on medical workers in heavy protective gear, especially as temperatures rise.
Huang Yixuan

Shot by Jiang Xiaowei. Subtitles by Sun Chao.

Automatic throat swab robots are being tested in Shanghai to help with COVID-19 nucleic acid testing and make the job of testers easier.

An automated nucleic acid testing site has been set up at Linfen Road Community Service Center in Jing'an District, with a robot, instead of humans, collecting swab samples.

The robot completes the entire sampling process for one person in less than a minute. All that a person has to do is show the code, place a brace, reposition and take on a proper mouth shape, press the start button, hold the position for a few seconds, and then the job is done.

The site is not yet open to the public because it needs to be tried out first inside the service center. Over the past week, it has cumulatively collected around 300 samples and has generally worked well without glitches.

At the moment, almost every public place in Shanghai needs a negative nucleic acid test result within 72 hours (or less) and a green health code. This means that there is a high demand for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing sites and staff.

It is thought that putting these robots into use will make things easier for medical workers, especially as temperatures rise and they have to wear bulky protective gear.

According to a service center official, it will help save manpower and lower overall labor costs because one robot can replace two to four medical workers at a sampling site.

The time it takes the robot on each sampling process is slightly longer than the manual process, but once fully operational, it will be able to provide 24-hour nucleic acid testing, which will meet the needs of more residents, particularly those in urgent need of PCR testing results.

Robot vs human? Shanghai is testing throat swab robots to help with nucleic acid testing
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

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