China Requiring Electronic Tracking For Coronavirus Quarantine

The government’s chief information officer Victor Lam shows off a new electronic tag that will be given to people under home quarantine as the Wuhan coronavirus fears continue to grip the city. Screengrab via Facebook video/RTHK.
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For coronavirus victims who are quarantined in their own home, China is making sure they stay there by using devices similar to the electronic ‘bracelets’ that courts and jails use for tracking prisoners. ⁃ TN Editor

The Hong Kong government has announced it has 500 electronic monitoring tags ready to distribute to Hong Kong people placed under home quarantine upon returning to the SAR after having spent time in Hubei province, the epicenter of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

The government’s chief information officer, Victor Lam, unveiled the e-tag at a press briefing this afternoon, saying that any Hong Kong residents who have been to Hubei in the past 14 days must undergo home quarantine of 14 days, a measure the new electronic bracelets are meant to ensure.

The tag is paired to a person’s smartphone — using Bluetooth Low Energy, or BLE, technology — and is plugged into the mains at the wearer’s home.

If the person wearing the tag unplugs the phone and leaves the quarantine zone with it, or if the distance between the tag and the phone exceeds 20 meters, an alert will be sent to the Department of Health and the police.

The authorities will also get an alert if the tag is broken or removed. Anyone who violates the home quarantine order faces up to six months in jail and a fine of HK$5,000 (US$644).

Lam added that because of concerns about personal privacy, the e-tag will not collect any personal data, and the tags aren’t equipped with GPS. When asked by reporters how will they be able to find anyone who absconds, Lam said they will first try calling the person on their phone.

At the moment, 500 tags are ready to be handed out, and an additional 1,000 can be made available within two weeks if necessary.

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