How China, the US, and Europe are using robots to replace and help humans fight coronavirus by delivering groceries, sanitizing hospitals, and monitoring patients

Robots in Kochi, India.

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Robots in Kochi, India.
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REUTERS/Sivaram V
  • The coronavirus outbreak that originated in China has killed more than 17,000 people worldwide and infected more than 398,000, according to recent totals.
  • The virus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, has spread to 169 countries, and the majority of infections and deaths are now outside of China.
  • As the outbreak spreads, robots are being used to disinfect, take temperatures, and even prepare food.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Around the world, robots are being used to minimize the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, by taking on cleaning and food preparation jobs that are considered dangerous for humans.

The worldwide death toll of the coronavirus disease that originated in Wuhan, China, is now more than 17,000, and the virus has infected more than 398,000 people. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared it a pandemic. The virus has disrupted travel worldwide, leading to flight cancellations, quarantines, and other breakdowns in movement and supply chains.

Take a look at some of the clever ways robots are used around the world to slow the spread of the coronavirus and help healthcare workers.


In Wuhan, where the outbreak started, a robot spraying disinfectant moves through a residential area of the city.

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Sanitizing robots.
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China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Volunteers refilled the robot with disinfectant on March 3.

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Sanitizing robots.
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China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images

Workers on scooters control the robot.

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Sanitizing robots.
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REUTERS

A patrol robot in a Shenyang, China, hospital checks temperatures and disinfects people and spaces.

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Temperature monitor robot.
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Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images

These robots are used at hospitals to cut down on demands on medical staff.

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Temperature monitor robot.
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Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images

Hangzhou, China, is yet another city using robots to disinfect large areas.

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Sanitizing robots.
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Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images

They’re controlled via remote control, and can be seen getting refilled here.

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Sanitizing robots.
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Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images

Hangzhou’s disinfecting robots look notably different from those in Wuhan and Shenyang, resembling miniature tanks.

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Sanitizing robots.
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Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images

Another robot disinfectant in Luoyang is remote-controlled and able to climb stairs.

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Sanitizing robots.
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REUTERS

Anhui, China has a fleet of disinfecting robots ready to start working.

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Sanitizing robots.
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Photo by TPG/Getty Images

This hand sanitizer-dispensing robot was photographed in Shanghai on March 4.

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Sanitizing robots.
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REUTERS

On March 11, robots in the Hunan province in China conduct morning temperature checks.

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Temperature monitor robot.
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Xinhua/Chen Zeguo via Getty Images

Engineers have also modified the robots to record data, give feedback, and even disinfect people’s hands.

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Temperature monitor robot.
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Xinhua/Chen Zeguo via Getty Images

Immediate feedback can make the containment process faster and more efficient.

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Temperature monitor robot.
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Xinhua/Chen Zeguo via Getty Images

Robots are being used for more than just disinfecting areas with coronavirus. A hospital in Ezhou has incorporated a robot chef into its kitchen.

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Food prep robot.
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Photo by Shi Xiaojie/China News Service via Getty Images

The robot can reportedly produce 100 pots of rice per hour.

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Food prep robot.
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Photo by Shi Xiaojie/China News Service via Getty Images

The robot operates without human supervision, which minimizes the number of people in the hospital exposed to the virus.

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Food prep robot.
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Photo by Shi Xiaojie/China News Service via Getty Images

Sharing food presents an opportunity to spread the virus, so some cities have been incorporating robots in food service and preparation.

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Food prep robot.
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Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

This robot delivered food to diners in Hangzhou.

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Food prep robot.
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Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Beijing-based Zhen Robotics says that its yellow robots are in demand to deliver groceries and patrol malls for people not wearing face masks.

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Delivery robot.
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Photo by Simon Song/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Engineering students at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok modified medical “ninja robots” designed for stroke patients to make them useful with patients who have COVID-19.

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Thai ninja robot.
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Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


The robots can take patients’ temperatures and protect the safety of healthcare workers by reducing interactions with sick people.

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Thai ninja robot.
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Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images

They also have a screen, allowing doctors to video chat with sick patients.

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Thai ninja robot.
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Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images

Postmates delivery robots deliver food in Los Angeles.

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Postmates delivery robot.
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Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Los Angeles is one of many US cities that closed all non-essential businesses due to COVID-19, and restaurants are allowed to stay open only for takeout and delivery.

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Postmates delivery robot.
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AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

A hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa is using a UV light robot to disinfect the facility.

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Sanitizing robot.
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Photo by MICHELE SPATARI/AFP via Getty Images

The hospital is using UV light instead of hydrogen peroxide, because it cuts cleaning time down from hours to five or ten minutes.

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Sanitizing robot.
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Photo by MICHELE SPATARI/AFP via Getty Images

UV light also poses less danger to healthcare workers than hydrogen peroxide.

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Sanitizing robot.
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Photo by MICHELE SPATARI/AFP via Getty Images

Startup Asimov Robotics launched two robots to spread awareness of the coronavirus in India.

Robots in Kochi, India.

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Robots distributing hand sanitizer and face masks.
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REUTERS/Sivaram V

They distribute face masks and hand sanitizer…

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Robots distributing hand sanitizer and face masks.
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REUTERS/Sivaram V

…along with information about preventing the virus.

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Robots distributing hand sanitizer and face masks.
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REUTERS/Sivaram V

A self-driving Starship robot drops off deliveries in Emerson Valley, Britain.

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Delivery robot.
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REUTERS/Andrew Boyers

The robot goes right to people’s door, eliminating the need for contact between people.

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Delivery robot.
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REUTERS/Andrew Boyers

Belgian company ZoraBots made a robot designed for elderly people to communicate with loved ones from the safety of their own homes.

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Video call robot.
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REUTERS/Yves Herman

The robot has video and audio so people can still talk while sheltering at home, keeping the most vulnerable people socially connected.

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Video call robot.
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REUTERS/Yves Herman