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In Indonesia, drone deliveries provide lifeline for isolating COVID-19 patients

MAKASSAR, Indonesia: A group of drone enthusiasts in Indonesia are using their aerial skills to help during the pandemic by providing a contactless medicine and food delivery service to COVID-19 patients isolating at home.

Armed with five drones, the seven-member team have been working around the clock in Makassar, the capital of the South Sulawesi province, since early July to provide deliveries.

Hartati, who along with her family, has been self-isolating since she tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-August, welcomed the innovative service.

"I think the medicine received from a drone is more sterile," said the 50-year-old housewife, who uses one name, noting how the system avoided the need for any direct contact when receiving goods. 

The family of four is living in an area where up to 80 per cent of residents are COVID-19 positive, according to data from Makassar's coronavirus task force. Indonesia is one of the countries worst affected by the pandemic in Asia.

The 'Makassar Recover Drone Medic' team is working with the local coronavirus task force to deliver medicine at least five times a day, said its founder and coordinator Muhammad Dasysyara Dahyar. During the peak of the latest outbreak in July, they made up to 25 rounds of deliveries in one day.

Mobility restrictions remain in place in many Indonesian cities, including Makassar, in a bid to contain a devastating wave of COVID-19 infections driven by the Delta variant.

Indonesia has reported more than four million cases and 131,000 fatalities since the pandemic started.

Makassar's mayor Mohammad Ramdhan Pomato said authorities planned to expand the use of drones to nearby islands and also provide deliveries to around 800 people staying in isolation in a ship docked off Makassar.

"The range of (each) drone is around seven kilometres (4.35 miles), so it is possible to reach the islands," said Pomato.

The drones also help monitor traffic and the movement of people in the city and pinpoint areas to target with COVID-19 tests. 

"This mission is a matter of pride. It's not every day that we are needed and participate in disaster management to tackle the spread of COVID-19," said the drone team's founder Dahyar.

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Source: Reuters/nh

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