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The New Arab

Robocop: Tunisia deploys police robots to enforce coronavirus lockdown

Tunisia's interior ministry announced the deployment of guided robots to patrol Tunis' streets [Facebook]

Date of publication: 1 April, 2020

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Videos circulating around social media show police-operated robots in Tunisia patrolling streets for civilians defying the country's coronavirus lockdown.
Police-operated robots patrolled Tunisia's streets on the lookout for civilians wandering outdoors despite the country's coronavirus lockdown, according to social media posts this week.

Last week, Tunisia's ministry of interior announced the deployment of unmanned guided robots by local robotics company Enova.

In one surreal viral video, a Tunisian man was scolded by a robot for venturing outside. When the civilian said he was out to get cigarettes, the policeman's disembodied voice angrily replied through the machine: "Okay, quickly, get your cigarettes and go home!"

Other videos shared on social media showed robots loudly urging the public to stay at home and follow the Tunisian government's health guidelines and lockdown procedures.

Tunisia has struggled to get civilians to stay inside since implementing its coronavirus restrictions last month.

An interior ministry spokesman said police have arrested over 1,000 people for violating a night-time curfew in place since March 17 and hundreds of others for violating lockdown orders in place since March 22.

Hundreds of Tunisians demonstrated in a working-class district of Tunis on Tuesday, demanding the government provide promised support and protesting the lockdown, which they say has disproportionately impacted the poor.

On Monday, angry residents marched to the local government office to demand welfare payments and permits to leave their homes. Some even blocked roads and burned tyres.

Originally scheduled to end on April 4, the lockdown was extended for a further 15 days on Tuesday.

As of Thursday, Tunisia has officially reported 423 COVID-19 cases, including 12 deaths.

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