Hong Kong coronavirus quarantine evaders collared by cops with the help of smartphone-tracking tech

Public also urged to report stay-at-home scofflaws


Hong Kong says it used a "government electronic monitoring system" to nab potential novel coronavirus carriers who flouted quarantine regulations. By monitoring system, it most likely means its wristband-based smartphone-tracking technology.

A late Tuesday announcement from the Special Administrative Region's government stated: "The police, following reports from members of the public and detection via the government electronic monitoring system, carried out immediate on-site investigations today.

"Ten persons were found to have left their dwelling places without permission and were subsequently sent to the quarantine centres. The Department of Health and the police will continue to follow up investigations to collect more evidence for the Department of Justice to consider prosecution."

Of those ten, it appears seven were reported on by their fellow citizens using a service called the e-Report Room that offers "an online platform to report suspected cases of breaching quarantine orders".

"The government would like to express its gratitude to benevolent members of the public who provided information through internet platform which in turn facilitated the seizure of seven persons who were suspected to have breached quarantine orders yesterday (March 23) alone," the announcement stated.

Hong Kong's digital tracking efforts include a wristband-based smartphone-monitoring system that doesn't track a cellphone owner's every move, but it can detect when the phone leaves an owner's home. It's backed by surprise video calls to ensure those expected to self-quarantine remain in place. Taiwan and Singapore have similar schemes, and the latter created a national contact-tracing app to help track down any coronavirus encounters.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, clearly understands the limits of digital tracking: yesterday's announcement called for members of the public to report suspected quarantine-breakers, either online or in person at police stations. Or, perhaps, by faxing the stations.

The Chinese government's announcements have also, in recent days, often included advisories that residents must disregard internet rumors about new measures to combat the novel coronavirus. Instead they're advised to source their news from the government itself, and it is pumping out plenty of daily news. ®


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