NEWS
26/03/2020 6:06 PM IST | Updated 26/03/2020 6:08 PM IST

Coronavirus: Kerala Police Is Using This Tech To Monitor People In Quarantine

The Kerala police said it had developed a software that tracks the movement of people in quarantine using geofencing.

Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images
Police stand guard on a road in Kochi, Kerala, on March 25, 2020. 

Kerala police has roped in its cyber cell to use tech and surveil the movement of high-risk people who have been placed under quarantine to tackle the spread of the novel coronavirus in the state. 

Kerala had 112 COVID-19 positive patients as of Thursday morning and one of the challenges the administration has been faced with is keeping people in quarantine. (See here, here and here.)

Last week, the state government had raised serious concerns after a Kasargod man violated government instructions on social distancing and hospital’s advice to self isolate and attended multiple public events.

On Thursday, the Palakkad district collector said that a COVID-19 positive patient in Kerala was found to have violated the mandatory home quarantine rule.

The Kerala police said it had developed a software that tracks the movement of people in quarantine using geofencing, Mathrubhumi News reported last week.

Screenshot/Mathrubhumi News
Geofencing used by Kerala police

“Only the high-risk contacts, like those who have had close association with the positive COVID-19 cases and those whom officials think may break protocol, are monitored,” a cyber cell official told The NewsMinute.

Geofence is a virtual boundary set up around a geographical location. The technology uses Global Positioning System (GPS), RFID tags, Wi-Fi or a person’s mobile phone to track their location.

“It is similar to mobile tracking. This is essential now to ensure that the quarantined persons, who do not follow restrictions, are disciplined,” said Jawaid Akhtar, additional chief secretary (health), according to The Hindu.

Mobile service providers are providing the GPS and mobile tower locations of such a person, TNM reported.

Authorities are alerted immediately when the person steps outside the geofence.

Kottayam District Police was the first to begin using this last week. District police chief G Jayadev told Mathrubhumi News that the police had used the technology to take action against 13 people.

Other districts in the state have also begun using this tech.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that though community transmission had not taken place in the state, “it is a sword hanging over our heads”. Kerala was facing a ‘dangerous’ situation, he said as he appealed for vigil.

Authorities in Bengaluru and Tamil Nadu are also looking into implementing this. Sivaganga Superintendent of Police Rohit Nathan Rajagopal had reportedly sent a proposal on its use to the Union home ministry.

While Kerala has not talked about the privacy concerns the use of such technology would raise, Rajagopal told The New Indian Express: “Laws like Sections 260 and 270 (Negligent or malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of IPC, The Tamil Nadu Public Health Act, 1939, Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, Disaster Management Act, 2005, are in favour of taking such measures during epidemic and pandemic crisis. Hence, when the larger welfare of society is at stake, issues like individual privacy should take a back seat.” 

HuffPost India has reached out to Kerala Police for a comment and will update this article if they respond.