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The Technological War Against COVID-19
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The Technological War Against COVID-19

Yannick S
July 30, 2020

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), better known as COVID-19 nowadays, is waging a silent but deadly war against mankind. This adversary is as mighty as it is insidious. Yet, COVID-19 is doing exactly what nature intended it to do. A virus is a minuscule agent whose only purpose is to replicate itself inside living cells until the host organism’s immune system defeats it, or succumbs. It is that simple.

Scientists have so far described in detail about 5,000 virus species. But there are millions of virus types out there.

The novel coronavirus is waging war against us. But we’re fighting back.

The technological weaponry in the war against COVID-19

COVID-19 has spread to every continent on Earth except Antarctica. At the time of writing, it has infected millions of people, and this number is expected to keep rising. The virus has spread incredibly fast and has proven to be nothing short of challenging for large population clusters, which have become the front lines in a lethal struggle that will require a great deal of both human ingenuity and resourcefulness if we are to prevail.

It is an unbalanced fight. We can’t see, perceive, or feel our enemy until it’s too late, until the immune system launches a desperate counter-attack on the virion horde. But mankind does have one crucial advantage against this treacherous adversary: Technological superiority.

Advances in medical science throughout the last hundred years or so mean that today’s society is far better equipped to deal with outbreaks of infectious disease than our counterparts of past centuries. For example, the Black Death in the mid-14th-century killed between 75 and 200 million people, and the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak may have taken up to 100M souls. In both cases, the true scale of the mortality will never be known.

Pandemics have always occurred, and will occur again. It’s just a matter of time. The first case of the current pandemic was detected in Wuhan, China, on the last day of December, 2019. Wuhan, a city of around 11M people, quickly became COVID-19 ground zero, a hotbed for infection. From there, the disease spread like wildfire and soon reached other Chinese cities before crossing international borders. Somewhat fortunately in relative terms, COVID-19 has a relatively low mortality rate (3%-6%), but far deadlier viruses like Ebola, Marburg, or perhaps a hitherto unknown pathogen might strike without warning anytime. 

Civilization has learned to exist in a perennial state of uneasy truce with deadly disease. We wait. We watch. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) was established for that very purpose. The agency, founded in 1946, keeps a tireless vigil on behalf of you and me, using modern technology to detect and fight outbreaks of disease before they have the chance to evolve into full-blown pandemics.

In the Old Continent, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) fulfills a similar role to the CDC. Headquartered in Solna, Sweden, the ECDC operates disease control programs designed to prevent the spread of disease across Europe. The ECDC’s efforts are supported by several technological aids created by private companies around Europe and elsewhere. These aids are being used to wage war against COVID-19.

The following technologies are presented in no particular order or ranking. This is a showcase of we, as people, can offer in the fight against a common foe.

EpiGuard 

Prompt and safe isolation is the first measure to take with a patient diagnosed with an infectious disease. An isolated patient has a better chance of survival and is much less likely to transmit the infection to others.

But quick isolation is not always possible, perhaps because the outbreak has already taken hold and the existing facilities have been overwhelmed. And once a patient is actively infectious, moving them to a secure location poses serious challenges both for the patient, medical staff, and other people who might not yet be sick.

Norwegian medical technology company EpiGuard has come up with EpiShuttle, a novel solution that addresses all these challenges. EpiShuttle is a transparent, capsule-like container used for the safe isolation and transportation of infectious patients. The device is the result of a collaborative effort of clinical experts, front line doctors, and patients.

EpiShuttles were used to transport two patients diagnosed with contagious diseases in Denmark in 2018.

Body temperature detection helmet

Chinese tech firm KC Wearables, based in Shenzen, has developed a wearable helmet equipped with sensors that can read people’s body temperature when the person comes within a 5-meter range. If the individual is running a fever, the helmet will sound an alarm to alert the wearer, and even transmit the data via Wifi, Bluetooth, or 5G technology to the nearest hospital.

The helmet has proven to be useful, and police forces in Shenzhen, Chengdu, and Shanghai are already issued with this hi-tech helmet.

UVD Sterilising robot

Robotics was once the stuff of fever dreams and foreboding sci-fi movies. But technological evolution is an inescapable factor in the development of civilization, and the fight against COVID-19 now fields a robotic ally.

Denmark-based Blue Ocean Robotics, working in collaboration with Odense University Hospital, has developed a robotic entity that uses UV light to sterilize materials and surfaces on the front lines. The UVD Robot features eight bulbs that emit concentrated ultraviolet light that kills bacteria, viruses, and other harmful agents.

Their UVD-Robot is currently in use, and it takes less than one day to produce new units, according to their creators.

Europechain’s FACT

A European initiative standing at the vanguard of the battle against the Corona virus. Europechain fields FACT, a blockchain-based COVID-19 tracker app aimed at enterprises, governments, and healthcare agencies.

FACT offers the user the possibility to track and map the spread of the virus within a local community, for example, or the creation of heatmaps where potential outbreaks are beginning to blossom, enabling a quick transmission of data to the relevant authorities via the Europechain blockchain network, all wrapped in a GDPR-compliant package.

This blockchain technology is FACT’s key asset in the struggle against the common foe that is COVID-19. This infectious agent gained the upper hand in the early stages of the conflict because of its insidiousness. FACT, however, flips the odds and restores the initiative for mankind to fight back and wipe the virus out for good.


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