There is absolutely no shred of doubt that indeed desperate times call for desperate measures and the current global pandemic is a case in point, to say the least. While the world is caught in an entangled web of what could be the panacea to the novel COVID-19 pandemic that has bedeviled the world, there are some positives that could be drawn from the ravaging menace of this cataclysmic virus against humanity. Truly, necessity is the mother of invention and the technical ingenuity and shrewdness of the world have surely been put to the test in these harrowing times.
The world changed its garment in the dying embers of 2019 when a strange virus was discovered in Wuhan, China. The COVID-19, a large family of viruses that are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). This was new and first of its kind ever to be discovered. This also meant a new challenge to test the medical acumen of experts globally. However, in reality, it was a waging war on the survival of humanity that was brewing in the world. Like wildfire in a dry season, it spread and ambushed many unsuspecting countries.
Suddenly, the attention of the world is constantly drawn to the statistical doom spelt by the pandemic on a spreadsheet on daily basis and the press having a feeding frenzy on the new viral attack on the human race. It wasn’t getting funny anymore. The numbers were alarming and an obvious premonition of annihilation was in the air.
However, if there is any silver lining that could be seen in this dark cloud upon the land, it will surely be the world’s rapid response through innovation and technological invention to combat the spread of the virus and to alleviate the pain inflicted on its victims. Have you heard about the Snood with germ trap? Indeed, 2020 has been a year of novelty in all sense and this innovation coming from the United Kingdom typifies that. This innovation is a mask with “germ trap” technology. This is a result of a 10-year project with the biotech firm Virustatic but had to be hurried into production owing to the pandemic. The product acts as a barrier that attracts, traps, and kills viruses in droplets invisible to the human eye. The masks are safe towear and, according to the developers, the virus becomes inactive after touching the fabric.
In Mexico, there has been a brainwave that has birthed an invention of a Protective Plastic Capsule. The Mexican Company XE Medical Engineering drew inspiration from neonatal chambers that protect newborns from external bacteria and viruses and reversed the product and developed an isolation capsule to keep pathogens from escaping, lowering the chance of it spreading to health workers. The chamber is a sealed, flexible plastic capsule that has a filter system to keep it inflated. According to the company, the device can be used in ambulances, emergency rooms and hospital wards.
China has also had her fair share of the global rage of innovation and invention provoked by the pandemic. Kuang-Chi Technologies have developed a smart helmet that can scan the temperature of hundreds of people every minute from a distance of up to five metres away. The headset features an infrared thermometer and can connect to the nearest hospital. It also has an augmented reality visor with facial recognition technology, which allows users to see the person’s name and medical history. The company has sold more than 1,000 temperature-scanning helmets and received orders from the Middle East, Europe and Asia so far.
Similarly, a company in Denmark has also created a sterilizing robot that looks like a group of lightsabers on wheels. Using concentrated UV-C ultraviolet light emitted by eight bulbs on its top, each robot can destroy viruses, bacteria and other harmful microbes and sanitize hospital wards without the need for chemicals. This reduces the need to leave these areas empty for several hours during cleaning, allowing hospitals to care for patients in the wake of the pandemic.
There has also been good news in Africa as countries are being spurred by the COVID -19 pandemic to come up with innovation in its prevention and diagnosing. In Ghana, a company called Redbird has been working for the last few years to ease the burden on hospitals in Ghana with technology that can help pharmacies diagnose and monitor chronic and tropical diseases, saving user information on an app. Now the company has added a function that helps people diagnose whether they have COVID-19. Users can input symptoms into an app and keep track of their movements to determine if they have been in contact with a confirmed case. The app can be used to prevent the Coronavirus from spreading in the workplace.
There are many other innovations and inventions across the globe that is COVID-19 inspired. We may sit back and talk about the pandemic with a grimacing look and walk around with a bee in our bonnet for bringing most of our activities to a standstill and keeping us in wait for the remedy that has eluded even most sophisticated countries of the world, but could we possibly also have a new slant of this pandemic considering the creation of a new world of innovative and convenient ways of performing life activities as well as a sudden awareness and inclination to health safety that has hitherto been overlooked by countries especially in Africa.
As we wade through the deep waters of the anxiety of the unknown and try to acclimate ourselves with the new norm, we can only hope that the surge in ideas and inventions will finally give rise to that which is needed to heal the world.
BY: F.KILIAN GANAA KODUA, ANNOR MANASSEH SUGARTHAN AND EMMANUEL GYAN
The Writers are Staff of the Public Affairs Directorate, Accra Technical University