Supplier of thermal scanners to Malaysia’s Health Ministry assures device keeps coronavirus at bay

Inframatrix managing director Richard Lee explains how a thermal imaging camera works at his office in Cheras January 31, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Inframatrix managing director Richard Lee explains how a thermal imaging camera works at his office in Cheras January 31, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 2 — The supplier of thermal scanners in Malaysia has assured that the devices used by health officials here are reliable and operating effectively to detect possible carriers of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) when entering the country.

Thermal imaging expert Richard Lee said thermal scanning or thermal imaging has been deployed at international entryways globally as a preventive method by health officials to contain the recent coronavirus outbreak, but many still do not fully understand how the device works.

Lee is the managing director of Inframatrix Sdn Bhd that supplies thermal scanners to the Health Ministry (MoH) and even trains health officials to operate the devices properly.

In the midst of a public panic due to misinformation and fake news about 2019-nCoV, Lee said that the thermals scanners used by health officials can detect individuals in large crowds with an elevated body temperature, which may be a sign of a fever.

To date, 2019-nCoV, also called the Wuhan virus, is known to cause pneumonia and symptoms such as fever, cough and breathing difficulties.

While originally used for industrial applications, there are different variations of the scanners that are designed for medical purposes.

“There has been a lot of talk on social media that the thermal scanners do not work or are ineffective, but many do not understand their purpose and function. 

“The scanners are originally thermal-imaging cameras designed to be used in industrial applications but have been tweaked for mass fever screening.

“The scanners are designed to detect individuals in large crowds with a higher than normal body temperature which indicates that said person could have a fever,” he told Malay Mail during a recent interview.

Lee, who is an electrical engineer by profession, said Inframatrix has supplied the MoH with thermal scanners since the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003.

He said a common misconception is that the scanners can also detect other forms of heat radiation emanating from the human body which is not true.

“It’s thermography or digital imaging. It is unable to detect viruses or bacteria in human bodies, but many people think that is how they work,” he said.

Lee assured that such methods combined with other preventive measures employed by the MoH are why Malaysia’s borders are kept relatively safe from such outbreaks.

“Of course, thermal imaging alone is not enough… but when coupled with other preventive measures taken by the ministry, it greatly increases the chance of detection.

“Then they can conduct the appropriate standard operating procedure to either refer the person to the hospital or quarantine them accordingly,” he said.

Lee also lauded public health officials in their proactive stance in tackling the recent Wuhan virus outbreak.

“With Malaysia’s past experience, expertise and technical know-how, I am confident we are able to stay on top of things with the recent outbreak,” he said.