Emirati police deploy smart tech in coronavirus fight

DUBAI: A mask-clad Muslim worker prays near a mosque on the first Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramadan amidst a curfew due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. – AFP

DUBAI: Police in the United Arab Emirates are deploying smart helmets that can scan the temperatures of hundreds of people every minute in their effort to combat the new coronavirus. The helmets, which need less time and less contact than traditional thermometers, can measure temperatures from five metres away and scan up to 200 people a minute, triggering an alert if a fever is detected.

Chinese company KC Wearable says it has sold more than 1,000 of the temperature scanning helmets and has received orders from the Middle East, Europe and Asia. “We’ve implemented the smart helmet during this time of crisis, with COVID-19, across all police stations in Dubai, as well as at patrolling stations whose duty requires them to be on the frontline,” police officer Aly Al-Ramsy told Reuters. “In the case of someone with a high temperature, we take the necessary measures to stop the person … and then the person is dealt with by paramedics and taken to the closest medical facility.”

Dubai police are using the helmets to screen people in densely populated areas, including sealed off neighborhoods. Gulf Arab states have ramped up testing after recording a growing number of cases among low-income migrant workers in overcrowded housing. The UAE has the second highest infection count among the six Gulf states. Like other countries around the world, Gulf states have deployed technology in the struggle to rein in the virus, including smartphone apps that track sufferers. Civil liberties groups have criticized such apps as an invasion of privacy.

Dubai on Friday launched a mobile testing service to carry out free coronavirus screening at home for the elderly and most vulnerable, after slightly easing strict confinement measures. The new “Mobile Laboratory Units” are converted ambulances fitted with auto-sterilization equipment, thermal scanners and safe storage cabins for samples, state news agency WAM said. They will “play a key role in reducing pressure on hospitals amidst the COVID-19 crisis and help protect people at high risk,” it said.

Dubai and fellow members of the United Arab Emirates decided Thursday to reopen malls, cafes and restaurants and to ease lockdown restrictions imposed last month to prevent the spread of the illness. The measures were timed for the start Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The UAE has declared more than 9,000 cases of the COVID-19 illness, with 64 deaths.

Dubai had been the only emirate that imposed a total curfew, while the other six members of the federation had restricted movement at night. Dubai has also authorized public transport, including its metro, to resume services from today. Residents are however required to wear face masks at all times, with violators to be fined 1,000 dirhams ($272).

Curfew will be from 10 pm to 6 am while malls were allowed to operate for 10 hours daily starting from midday on Friday, the first day of Ramadan, an official statement cited by the state-run WAM news agency said. Supermarkets, food outlets, groceries and pharmacies will be allowed to operate round the clock, but mosques will remain shut during the holy month, the statement said.

Dubai government said in a statement that family entertainment facilities will remain shut while restaurants and hotels can be run only by 30 percent of their staff at a time. Restaurants and cafes are not permitted to serve shisha or buffet dining and customers must observe social distancing. The restrictions have hit businesses hard, particularly retailers who had expected to cater to a rush of Ramadan shoppers. – Agencies

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