Hong Kong to use e-wristbands to track Covid-positive residents

Beijing, Jul 12 (EFE).- Hong Kong is set to establish a surveillance system based on electronic wristbands to track and control the movement of people infected with Covid-19 who are supposed to remain in home quarantine, local media reported on Tuesday.

The plan, unveiled on Monday by the new health secretary of the city, Lo Chung-mau, would require the patients allowed to isolate themselves at home instead of government quarantine centers, to wear an e-bracelet that would track their movements.

“Everyone agrees that those who have Covid-19 should actually not go out and harm the rest of the population,” Lo said, according to local daily South China Morning Post.

The former British colony has continued to enforce a zero-tolerance policy towards the coronavirus, similar to the restrictions followed by the Chinese mainland, including the mandatory isolation of all those who test positive, either at special facilities or at home.

However, experts have raised doubts over the use of the tracking devices.

“How can those elderly residents living alone buy food and daily necessities without leaving their home for seven days? What happens when the breadwinners in a family can’t go out to work and make a living? Not everyone can work from home,” Joseph Tsang Kay-yan, member of the Hong Kong Medical Association, told South China Morning Post.

The wristband is designed to gather information about the patient’s location through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi networks or GPS.

However, questions have also been raised about the accuracy of the devices.

“Would those wristbands be sensitive enough to detect a person leaving their home and going from the 16th floor of a building to the third floor, for example?” Tsang said, adding that some patients might simply take it off and hang it in their houses before going out.

Francis Fong Po-kiu, honorary president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said that the margin of error for the wristband “could range from 50 meters to 100 meters”

This is not the first time that Hong Kong authorities have resorted to using wristband-type devices to monitor the movements of a group considered high-risk.

In 2020, passengers arriving in the semi-autonomous city were given a wristband with a QR-code which had to be scanned at different spots. The device has now evolved into bracelets capable of tracking movements.

After assuming office on Jul. 1, the health secretary has also announced plans to establish a color-coded system to identify the risk-levels associated with a person as they enter public places.

The system, similar to those in place in major cities of mainland China, is based on the “Leave Home Safe” mobile app, originally designed to display a person’s vaccination status, which would show a red code for users who have tested positive for Covid and yellow for those who are undergoing a quarantine period after arriving from abroad.

The red and yellow-coded users would be denied access to public places classified as “high-risk,” although experts cited by local media have highlighted potential loopholes in the system, such as people using their friend’s phone for entry.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Hong Kong – which has a population of around 7.4 million – has registered 342,359 Covid cases and 9,419 deaths. EFE


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