Manama: Bahrain is leveraging technology to ensure that people under compulsory home quarantines do not move away from the confines of their homes.
Electronic tracker wristbands that alert authorities to rogue escapees have been rolled out by the island kingdom as it seeks to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).
“Self-isolating individuals are obliged to wear the electronic bracelet that will notify the monitoring station when they are 15 metres away from their phone, in which case a warning will be sent,” Information and eGovernment Authority (iGA) Chief Executive Mohammed Ali Al Qaed said.
Attempting to remove or tamper with the bracelet is a violation and officials confirmed the bracelet is waterproof.
“Violators will face legal penalties as per Public Health Law No. 34 for the year 2018, potentially being sentenced to imprisonment for a period not less than 3 months and a fine between BD1,000 (Dh9,700) and BD10,000, or either of the two penalties,” he said.
Ministry of Health officials may randomly send picture requests to which self-isolating individuals must respond with a photo that clearly shows their face and bracelet.
The bracelets are compatible with the COVID-19 contact tracing application, ‘BeAware’, launched last month by Bahrain to advance contact-tracing efforts and raise awareness of active cases within the Kingdom.
The application identifies contact tracing cases and alerts individuals in the event they approach an active case or a location where an active case has visited or passed by.
“iGA will guide users through the app and all of its features, which requires users to ensure their smart devices are charged and that their location services, Bluetooth, GPS and internet connection is on. iPhone users will need to ensure that the ‘Allow Location Access’ is set at ‘Always’,” Al Qaed said.
Self-isolating individuals using the application must identify their isolation location, in most cases their home, by selecting “Set Home Location” upon arrival. Users can correct location information by calling 444.
Several countries have resorted to technology to combat the coronavirus pandemic. However, the tracking technology they are deploying to enforce quarantine measures monitors GPS on phones.
Technology experts say that the GPS technology might not be so rewarding as the signal could be lost.
- Habib Toumi is a senior journalist based in Bahrain