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Hong Kong to Put Electronic Bracelets on the COVID-Positive to Track Movements: Report

Hong Kong colocará brazaletes electrónicos a quienes den positivo por covid para vigilar su aislamiento

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Hong Kong will introduce a controversial surveillance system based on a bracelet to monitor the movements of those infected with COVID-19 who must remain at home, the local newspaper South China Morning Post reported today.

The plan, unveiled Monday by the former British colony’s new health secretary, Lo Chung-mau, will require patients who are allowed to isolate themselves at home rather than in government quarantine centers to wear an electronic bracelet that will monitor their movements.

“We all agree that those with COVID-19 should not go out and harm the rest of the population,” Lo said.

The territory follows a zero-tolerance policy against the coronavirus similar to that in place in mainland China and includes isolation of all those infected in specialized facilities or in homes.

However, experts quoted by the newspaper raise doubts about the suitability of these devices: “How will the elderly who cannot leave their homes buy enough food for several days? What will happen when the heads of households cannot go to work and their jobs do not allow them to work from home?” asks Dr. Joseph Tsang, of the Hong Kong Medical Association.

The wristband will collect information about the wearer’s location through Bluetooth signals, wireless networks, or GPS.

Francis Fong Po-kiu, the honorary chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Information Technology, warned in the newspaper that “the wristbands’ margin of error could range from 50 to 100 meters.”

It is not the first time that Hong Kong authorities have resorted to some kind of bracelets to monitor the movements of groups of people at risk: as early as 2020, passengers arriving in the semi-autonomous city received a bracelet with a QR code that they had to scan, a device that has evolved over the past two years to bracelets capable of recording movements.

Since his recent appointment on July 1, Lo has also announced his intention to introduce a color system to identify the risk of a person entering public places.

The method, similar to that in place in major cities in mainland China, is based on the “Leave Home Safe” mobile application, originally designed to show a person’s vaccination status, and will display a red code on those users who have tested positive for COVID-19 and yellow on those who are in quarantine after arriving from abroad.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 342,359 cases of COVID-19 and 9,419 deaths have been reported among Hong Kong’s population of about 7.4 million.

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