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Coronavirus: Mumbai civic body turns to phone GPS to enforce home quarantine rules

The idea has been inspired by the South Korean government, which is using a mobile app to track suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients, and has managed to control the outbreak noticeably by this and other measures.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | Updated: March 19, 2020 7:30:29 am
Coronavirus, Coronavirus India, BMC, bmc mumbai, coronavirus outbreak, coronavirus in india, coronavirus in mumbai, indian express In Mumbai, passengers flying in from abroad will be screened at the airport and made to fill a form with his or her phone number and address. (File Photo)

Faced with violations of the mandatory 14-day home quarantine for arriving international travellers, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has asked Mumbai Police to track their movements through GPS location of their phones to make sure they stay at home.

The idea has been inspired by the South Korean government, which is using a mobile app to track suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients, and has managed to control the outbreak noticeably by this and other measures. In Mumbai, passengers flying in from abroad will be screened at the airport and made to fill a form with his or her phone number and address. “We will be taking help from police to track their movements through GPS location of their mobile phones,” said additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani.

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Kakani added that while international passengers are counselled to follow home quarantine rules and not come in contact with their wider community — followed up with a daily phone call by health workers, “nothing has succeeded” in ensuring they remain in quarantine. The coronavirus takes seven-eight days to develop symptoms, and home isolation is advised for 14 days to ensure an infected person does not transmit the virus to others.

Since Monday passengers are also being stamped on their fist at the airport with a line saying “Proud to protect Mumbaikars. Home quarantined” with the date until which they have to remain in home isolation. “It has been difficult to make people understand the importance of home quarantine. We received several complaints from societies that a resident had stepped out. We had to again go and counsel these people,” said Dr Vikas Singh, assistant medical officer in BMC L ward.

When contacted, joint commissioner of police (law and order) Vinoy Kumar Choubey refused to confirm whether they will track movements through GPS location, but said, “We are helping the BMC keep track of people quarantined and home quarantined.”

While the move to track cases raises privacy concerns, the Epidemic Act, 1897, allows a government-designated officer to take measures necessary to contain the epidemic. —With inputs from Sagar Rajput

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