Hong Kong uses electronic wristbands to enforce coronavirus quarantine

Declan Chan received a wristband upon returning to Hong Kong to monitor his movement while under 14-day quarantine.

Declan Chan

Hong Kong is using electronic wristbands as part of its effort to enforce quarantines and reduce the spread of the new coronavirus.

The measure comes as the government announced that starting at midnight on March 19, it is putting all arriving passengers under a two-week quarantine and medical surveillance. The city’s leader Carrie Lam said that of 57 new cases Hong Kong recorded in the past two weeks, 50 were travelers from overseas.

The wristbands are connected to a smartphone app and will be used to make sure people actually stay at home.

Declan Chan, a stylist and Hong Kong resident, returned on March 17 on a flight from Zurich and was surprised when he was told he needed to abide by the new measures to enter Hong Kong.

“I was just expecting we’d have to fill out a form. I didn’t realize there would be a wristband,” he told CNBC by phone from his Hong Kong home, while under quarantine.

Chan filled out a form which suggested passengers had the option of sharing their location with the government via messaging platforms, like WeChat and WhatsApp, or by agreeing to wearing an electronic wristband. But he soon learned the messaging apps were not an option and all passengers must wear the wristbands.

I felt a bit weird about the bracelet-checking thing because of privacy reasons, but I understand why they have to do that.

Declan Chan

Hong Kong resident

He said he witnessed one passenger who refused to comply and booked a flight to depart from Hong Kong.

Chan said he was instructed to walk around the corners of his house, upon arriving home, so the technology could precisely track the coordinates of his living space in which he would remain under quarantine. During quarantine, he plans to use delivery apps for food and groceries. 

“A person who contravenes or knowingly gives false information to Department of Health is liable on conviction to a $5000 HKD ($644) fine and to imprisonment for 6 months,” according to a handout given to passengers and which was obtained by CNBC.

Hong Kong’s government said it has more than 60,000 wristbands that can be used.

Governments across Asia have worked to enforce self-quarantine measures, including Singapore, which has banned some foreign residents from the city-state after they failed to comply with the measures.

Chan, meanwhile, said he feels glad to be home.

“It’s quite safe to be in Hong Kong where the situation of the virus is now in control,” he said. “I felt a bit weird about the bracelet-checking thing because of privacy reasons, but I understand why they have to do that.”

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