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Demo of UV light robot in Baguio marred as media report eye irritations

The local government of Baguio City has signified its intent to acquire a UV-C disinfecting robot to counter COVID-19, but its sneak peek was marred by eye irritations among those exposed to it.

According to Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the city is likely to acquire one unit of the disinfection robot—Keno UVC from Denmark—in efforts to speed up disinfection and prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease.

"We're looking at, you know, acquiring one. Depende siyempre sa budget namin, but looking at the efficacy and at the same time 'yung ease of disinfecting, sa tingin ko, we're really bent on acquiring one," he said in a report on GMA's "24 Oras Weekend" on Sunday.

The technology, capable of covering 5,500 square meters per hour, was presented to members of the media in Baguio City.

Following exposure to the technology, however, at least eight members of the media—including two from the GMA News team—reported eye irritations.

"Hindi ko na maidilat. 'Pag dinidilat ko siya nakikita ko puro puti lang. Hinilamusan ko nang hinilamusan ng tubig, wala pa rin talaga," a member of the team said.

"May something na para siyang mabuhangin sa loob na ayaw dumilat, and then at the same time, meron siyang mga parang bubog sa mata," another member of the team said.

The irritations were diagnosed by an opthalmologist as acute keratitis.

"'Yung mahabang pag-expose sa UV light, maaring mag-cause ng mga sakit sa mata at tsaka sa balat. 'Yung mga quick acute affects can be your sinasabing acute keratitis," he said.

"'Yung keratitis is iritasyon doon sa cornea natin, 'yung pinaka-crystal ng mata natin. 'Yung surface niya na-irritate, siguro 'yung ibang cells doon ay namamatay," he added.

Robotics Activation, which brought the technology to Baguio City,apologized to members of the media.

"We sincerely though we had exercised enough precautions, when the press asked to switch the robot on, but it turns out we didn't. We extend our apologies to the members of the press who were affected, and are updating our protocols to make sure that this not happen again, moving forward," said Robotics Activations chief of business development Camille Anton.

"The discomfort from the UV exposure is real, but is supposed to be temporary, by all accounts. We remain in contact with those affected to ensure that this is the case," she added.

The firm has also been in contact with the GMA team regarding the incident.

Meanwhile, Magalong took full responsibility for the incident, but noted that it did not have any effect on the city's acquisition plans for the technology.

"Ako mismo ay nagpapaumanhin. I'm taking full responsibility for what happened. That would serve as a lesson sa amin na kailangan talaga mas maingat kami," he said.

While international scientists are studying the effects of UVC light on the coronavirus, the Department of Health (DOH) said that there is still not enough evidence on what type and what dosage of UVC would have a significant effect on COVID-19.

The DOH added that directly wiping off surfaces with a rug and a disinfectant is still prescribed as a way to eliminate the virus. — Jon Viktor D. Cabuenas/BM, GMA News