MTR introduces robots to clean trains amid coronavirus outbreak

The MTR have spent HK$20 million on an army of robots that will disinfect trains in the fight against the coronavirus. Screengrab via Facebook video/RTHK.
The MTR have spent HK$20 million on an army of robots that will disinfect trains in the fight against the coronavirus. Screengrab via Facebook video/RTHK.

Hong Kong’s railway operator has enlisted a fleet of robots to clean and disinfect trains in the fight against the coronavirus.

The MTR have spent HK$20 million (US$2.57 million) on 20 mini-fridge-sized robots that will travel through train carriages, spraying disinfectant as they go.

The robots can either be controlled remotely or given a pre-set route to follow, and take about four hours to disinfect a whole train.

The MTR’s operations director, Tony Lee, said that the robots will spray hydrogen peroxide, a mild antiseptic that Lee said is safe and effective in wiping out germs and viruses.

Lee reassured people that the 20 robots will not replace the operator’s human cleaners, and that they will only be sent to areas where a confirmed coronavirus patient has been. Last month it was reported that a station officer at Mong Kok East MTR station had contracted COVID-19, and Lee confirmed that one of the robots was used to disinfect the office where he worked.

In addition to the new robots, the MTR also unveiled their very own face mask-making machine, which is expected to go online as soon as the second half of the year, and will make masks for MTR employees. According to Ming Pao, the machines are expected to produce about 10,000 face masks per day.

The news comes after health officials confirmed that three more people are confirmed to have the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the city to 130.

The trio were mentioned at an afternoon press briefing yesterday as having preliminarily tested positive pending further lab tests. A press release published last night confirmed the three — all women, aged 31 to 52 — had indeed contracted COVID-19.

One of the trio, a 31-year-old woman who had flown from England to Hong Kong on Feb. 29, was on the same plane as another person who had contracted the virus. The second woman, aged 36, is the daughter of a previously confirmed case, and tested positive after the 14-day incubation period. The last of the three, a 52-year-old woman, was the final member of an Egypt tour group at the center of a cluster of infection.

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CITY: HONG KONGCATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: HEALTH, TRANSPORTATION

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