Great Britain

'Show me your ID': Tunisia deploys 'robocop' to enforce coronavirus lockdown

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

Known as PGuard, the “robocop” 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, the robot calls out to suspected violators of the lockdown: “What are you doing? Show me your ID. You don’t know there’s a lockdown?”

Tunisia has been under night-time curfew since 17 March and authorities imposed stricter lockdown orders from 22 March.

Since 2 March, 14 people have died from coronavirus in the North African nation and 455 people have tested positive for the disease.

The robot’s Tunisian creator Anis Sahbani said the machine was first produced in 2015 to carry out security patrols. It also operates autonomously through artificial intelligence.

The robot, built by Sahbani’s Enova Robotics firm, costs $100,000 – $140,000 and has been selling mostly overseas to companies for security uses.

Based in the eastern city of Sousse, the company said it was now planning to deploy another robot in a Tunis hospital to help coronavirus patients communicate with relatives.

The PGuard deployed in Tunis has been popular on social media with users posting footage of the machine in several parts of the capital.

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

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