Fast-spreading coronavirus leads to contactless services in China

Receiving food and packages without person-to-person interaction has become a trend over virus fear.

Photo source: shutterstock.com

As the new Huoshenshan makeshift hospital in Wuhan—which was built in ten days—has started to accept its first batch of patients infected with the coronavirus on Tuesday, an Alibaba’s cashier-free supermarket has also opened in the medical structure, news portal SinaTech reported.

The 24-hour store, built by Alibaba’s fresh grocery delivery arm Taoxianda and Hubei’s local supermarket chain Zhongbai Warehouse, is equipped with a self-checkout system that allows shoppers to scan and pay for items without having to interact with a cashier.

“There is no cashier or sales assistant in the store. Customers will not get receipts after checking out,” personnel from Taoxianda said. “We hope the cashier-free checkout system can help to reduce human-to-human physical interactions in the facility as much as possible,” he added.

The contactless checkout system was built by Zhongbai Warehouse and Alibaba’s Taoxianda within five hours. Source: Screenshot from SinaTech‘s video.

The 1,000-bed Huoshenshan Hospital—meaning “Fire God Mountain” in English—is expected to ease a persistent shortage of hospital beds and medical supplies in the race to eradicate the novel virus, which has killed 362 people and infected more than 8,300 in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, as of Tuesday.

The other complex, the Leishenshan Hospital, which is still under construction, will also have a 24-hour contactless supermarket.

Since the beginning of the virus’ outbreak, people in China have seen more and more services going contactless, including supermarkets, delivery services, and others.

Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com’s logistics arm will launch a robot delivery service by using four-wheeled fully autonomous self-driving robots that can be loaded with up to 30 parcels, to deliver packages within a 5-kilometer radius, said the company. The robots will allow receivers to collect after facial recognition.

China’s delivery giant Meituan Dianping launched a service allowing users to have their food delivered to a designated area without having to interact with a courier in person. The contactless delivery service will first be available in Wuhan before rolling out to 184 cities across the country.

Yum China’s KFC and Pizza Hut have also rolled out similar services. Couriers—required to wear masks and disinfect their hands—will place the food in a delivery location agreed on by both parties in advance, and then step back and watch from a distance of at least ten feet as the customer collects the food and leaves, according to a statement by Yum China.

Even warning citizens of unsafe behaviors like going out without a mask, can be done by a drone, according to a video released by state-owned media Global Times.

“Yes Auntie, this drone is speaking to you,” the drone said to an elderly woman staring at the aircraft. “You shouldn’t walk outside without wearing a mask. You’d better go home, and don’t forget to wash your hands.” The woman then proceeded to go indoors.