Tunisia ‘robocop’ enforces coronavirus lockdown

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A Tunisian police robot patrols the streets of the capital Tunis to enforce a nationwide lockdown imposed by the authorities in their fight against coronavirus (AFP Photo/FETHI BELAID)

A police robot has been deployed by Tunisia’s interior ministry to patrol the streets of the capital and enforce a lockdown imposed last month as the country battles the spread of coronavirus.

The Robocop, known as PGuard, is remotely operated and equipped with infrared and thermal imaging cameras in addition to a sound and light alarm system.

In images and a soundtrack posted on the interior ministry’s website last month, PGuard calls out to suspected violators of the lockdown: “What are you doing? Show me your ID. You don’t know there’s a lockdown?”

The robot’s creator, Anis Sahbani told AFP the machine was first produced in 2015 essentially to carry out security patrols and it also operates autonomously through artificial intelligence.

Built in Sahbani’s Enova robotics firm, the robot costs between 100,000-130,000 euros ($100,000-$140,000) and has been selling to companies mostly overseas for security purposes.

The company is now planning to deploy another robot in a hospital in Tunis to help coronavirus patients communicate with relatives.

A third one is being made and should be operational by the end of April in hospitals as part of a process to determine which patients are likely to have been infected with COVID-19.

The Robocop has been a hit on social media with users posting footage of the machine in action in several parts of the capital.

It can be heard voicing a pre-recorded message calling on citizens to “respect the law and stay at home to limit the spread of the virus and safeguard human lives.”

Tunisia has recorded 14 deaths and 455 confirmed cases of the coronavirus since March 2.

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