Gov’t unveils new electronic tags for people under Wuhan coronavirus home 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.
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.

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.

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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.

The additional quarantine measures come after the authorities disclosed the city now has 15 confirmed cases of the little-understood and potentially fatal Wuhan coronavirus.

Also at today’s briefing was Undersecretary for Health Chui Tak-yi, who confirmed that the majority of the 97 places at the three current quarantine camps are already occupied, and officials are looking for additional sites. Other proposed sites have met with fierce resistance from nearby residents.

Chui said the government is working on turning the Sai Kung Outdoor Recreation Centre into a quarantine camp, and added that despite a weekend of protests in the area, they’re also moving ahead with plans to turn the Heritage Lodge near Mei Foo Sun Chuen Estate into the city’s fourth quarantine center.

Chui said the location of the lodge as a quarantine center was appropriate given that it’s not close to any apartments — being about a 10-minute walk away from the Mei Foo Sun Chuen Estate and the MTR station — and that the camps were just for people who are under quarantine but asymptomatic.


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