Expert says Government should consider the use of tracking bracelets for people in quarantine

The Government should consider the use of tracking bracelets for arrivals in quarantine.
The Government should consider the use of tracking bracelets for arrivals in quarantine. Photo credit: Getty

An expert says the use of tracking bracelets for Kiwis returning into quarantine should be considered by the government.

A University of Otago Professor of Public Health, Nick Wilson, says the option of an electronic bracelet should be explored by the New Zealand government as an extra form of security for those returning back from overseas, similar to the rules imposed in Hong Kong.

"There have been system failures recently with people leaving quarantine due to inadequate fencing and security," Wilson says.

He also suggests there should be more surveillance technologies to ensure this doesn't happen again.

Wilson cited the example of Hong Kong, where all foreign arrivals have to wear a tracking wristband as well as following the 14-day quarantine. Those who don't risk six months in jail.

Arrivals are given wristbands with a QR code, and are instructed to download an app 'StayHomeSafe' where it can issue a warning if someone tries to break quarantine.

The app allows them to walk within a perimeter of their apartment, and if their phone is in an unregistered spot, it starts to beep. Stopping it required scanning every family member's wristband QR code.

"For people who broke any of the quarantine rules - they could be required to wear them as a form of extra security," Wilson says.

His advice comes after an incident on Tuesday night, where a COVID-19 tested positive man escaped his quarantine facility to go to the supermarket.

The man in his 30s went through a gap in a fence, outside the Stamford Plaza hotel in Auckland. Results after the incident then revealed his COVID-19 test was positive.

Around the world, there are already concerns about the intrusiveness of tracking devices.

Taiwan has introduced a mobile-based "electronic fence" that instructs those in quarantine to stay at home. Officials also call twice a day to ensure people do not leave their phones at home. 

"It's creepy that the government is teaming up with telecommunications companies to track our phones," a flight attendant in Taiwan told Reuters.

Despite the potential breach in privacy, there could be ways to ensure that this data is used for public health purposes only, Wilson says.

"But there may be ways to ensure that any electronic monitoring is just for public health purposes and any breach of privacy by officials could have strict penalties."

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