Government considers electronic wristbands for home isolation

The GPS-enabled bracelets would enable home isolation for travellers returning from 'low-risk' countries.

By David Flynn, October 20 2020
Government considers electronic wristbands for home isolation

Electronic wristbands could help enforce home quarantine as the government looks ahead to reopening international travel with less reliance on the current caps on arrivals and 14-day mandatory user-pays hotel isolation.

The lightweight GPS-enabled bracelets are already used in a number of countries including Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.

They typically connect to a smartphone app and are used to make sure people actually stay at home by reporting the wearer's location to a government monitoring service.

Singapore's wristband, which also generates an alert if it has been removed or tampered with, is complemented by a program under which the wearer receives text messages, phone calls and sometimes even video calls from the country's health agency, which must be responded to.

UK-based advocacy group Privacy International has suggested that the use of technology tracking devices to help stem the spread of Covid-19 should be "temporary, necessary, and proportionate" and that "when the pandemic is over, such extraordinary measures must be put to an end."

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, which comprises all state and territory chief health officers under the leadership of Australia's Chief Medical Officer, is now holding discussions on the use of electronic monitoring devices for some returning travellers.

Those travellers would like be arrivals from low-risk countries where a two-way travel bubble does not exist – such as New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Singapore and Japan – under a new 'traffic light' system proposed to nations according to how they were tracking with COVID-19 infections.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week said that the National Security Committee was "considering options for home isolation" based on expert medical advice from the committee.

A spokeswoman for the Victorian state government confirmed to The Age that discussions are underway at both state and federal levels on how electronic wristbands might be rolled out for international flights.

The federal government is under increasing pressure to ease up on restrictions which now prohibit most Australians from heading overseas, as well as helping to bring home the more than 25,000 Australians stranded overseas.

The practical limits of hotel quarantine program are said to be behind the current cap on the number of people arriving on international flights, which today is pegged at under 6,000 people per week.

This in turn has led airlines to reduce and in some cases suspend flights to Australia, as in many cases the aircraft can carry only 30-50 passengers in order to stay within each city's allocated arrivals limit.

Also read: Australian Government considers home isolation for overseas arrivals

 

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

P
P

17 Jan 2018

Total posts 86

Long overdue.

31 Dec 2014

Total posts 32

Excellent idea! Bring it on. Anything is better than the current farcical arrangements.

1. Do you have a private residence?

2. Will you wear the ankle bracelet?

3. Do you agree to significant penalties if you’re caught breaking the rules?

Yes to all three? Go to home quarantine. No to any of these and go to hotel quarantine as is the current case.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2017

Total posts 109

4.) Are you single and live alone? (Any contact with girlfriend/wife/kids/family members/house mates/delivery drivers will risk them catching and spreading to the community. 

5.) Do you agree to not answer the door to anyone and stay inside the same room and use a different bathroom than other occupants of the house?

I don’t mean to be devils advocate as I certainly support the easing of ALL this madness, but these are the issues the government will see with this arrangement. No way to police your contact with other guests / visitors of the household who are free to roam the community. 

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

28 Jun 2019

Total posts 64

It all comes down to risk management. Australia is a challenging position because it has set a very high bar for itself, but total risk eradication is simply not possible, nor is near-total risk eradication tenable in the medium-term. 

In other words, yes, the risks you note do exist and pose higher risk to the rest of the community than forced hotel quarantine. That is why the at-home quarantine option could be limited to countries that are not as high risk. Balance.

Low-risk countries = green, no quarantine.

Medium-risk countries = amber, at-home quarantine with tracking device as used in, e.g. Singapore.

High-risk countries = red, hotel quarantine.

This would allow more movement but also take unnecessary strain off the hotel quarantine programme caused by people coming in from low-risk countries, which in turn would allow us to reserve those spaces for those coming from genuinely high-risk countries. The result is more sustainable, increased movement across the board in a manner that better reflects and manages the risk posed by each category. 

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 86

Yes, I agree to all these things. Let's just get international travel started!!

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 279

@PERflyer

I agree.

These countries using this technology are usually densely populated and has a high proportion of urban areas

There are dedicated units to check on people remotely every day (sometimes a few times a day) with things to do and real teeth if not abiding by the rules. (None of the “good behaviour bond” sentencing krap) Furthermore there are also random in-person door knocks by police or authorised enforcement personnel at least 1-2 times during the quarantine for every single person (as I understand from reports)

And the police or auxiliary personnel do not see the door knocks, enforcing quarantine, welfare checks and chasing after quarantine escapees as “beneath” them. It’s part of the expectations.

Contrast this to Australia, with people living all over the state (and sometimes choosing address that can be hard to police/monitor but crying foul for living in the rural areas or poorly covered by mobile).

With some states experience in contact tracing, and lack of resources to even make a basic phone call to all of the return travellers supposed to be on home isolation, I don’t expect they will do better now.

And the relative reluctance shown by Victorian police to be involved in quarantine is not unique to Victoria (of course they remembered differently now but some of us remember how some police chief are reluctant to be involved in door knocks and border checks, until some people showed they cannot be trusted to follow the directives)

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 279

Totally agree 

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 47

I can't see this being all that usefiul. What if your final destination is a city other than the one in which you land? If your home is in Dubbo, say, and you land in Sydney? No way we will be allowed to get out of Sydney for home quarantine.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 367

Tthat's why these are only considered for low risk country. In fact I don't know why anyone from NZ (or any other countries that has zero community cases for >2months) need to be quarantined. How is it different from someone coming from interstate (except VIC)? 

Even including Vic, we're having single figure cases per day now.

21 Dec 2016

Total posts 38

It looks to me that VIC is doing better than NSW right now.

19 Jun 2020

Total posts 16

My love for aviation will not be an excuse to support such totalitarian measures. Never before have Australians supported anything like this, so easily are people corralled. Hegel’s dialectic in action right before our eyes..

British Airways - Executive Club

10 Apr 2015

Total posts 11

Can't come soon enough - I'd be very happy to do this, stay at home, work at home, Woolies delivery - to allow me to start what is becoming critical business travel (critical for future of my business and staff, not critical to the government). It seems a bit of a no-brainer. 

Having experienced this already in Hong Kong, it makes quarantine so much more bearable than being in a hotel. (based on feedback from colleagues who returned from USA and mandatory hotel quarantine.

Having already experienced this in Hong Kong, it makes quarantine so much more bearable compared to my colleagues who returned from USA and had to go through mandatory hotel quarantine.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jan 2018

Total posts 32

FANTASTIC!!!

I would submit to an electronic bracelet of any type in order to self isolate at home. I don't care about so called "privacy concerns". I wouldn't give a rats if someone skywrote my address for 5 million people to see, it's in the telephone directory anyway and who would care.

Having already completed 2 weeks home self-isolation between March 26 and April 9 (without the slightest temptation to cheat) I would not hesitate to sign up to this. It would enable me to recommence my business and put 15 people back to work immediately.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 86

Introduce it for only certain countries at first, such as Singapore, Taiwan, NZ, Hong Kong, China (yes I did say China!) and some of the pacific islands. Expand as we gain confidence to other lower infected countries.

This will introduce a few isolated cases of the virus, get over it, find ways to deal with that without the ridiculous situation of zero international travel.

Don’t hold your breath for this method to be introduced. The public service moves at glacial speed. 

For example, my 3 local supermarkets had Perspex screens installed at checkouts within two weeks of the pandemic being declared. It took Australian Border Force six MONTHS to install them at inbound passport control, despite this being a much riskier location than a supermarket. 

10 Aug 2020

Total posts 1

Yes bring it on! We have been locked in here for long enough its time to open the borders I can't believe more people aren't vocal about this. I would happily put the damn tracker on and whatever else is required to be able to live my life and travel overseas! 

07 May 2020

Total posts 71

PERflyer....all very well to make your suggestions for inbound travellers. But what about someone in burbs who is actually infected? Would your suggestions also apply to them or are they somehow different and their friends/visitors different?

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 84

I'm all for this, it's proven to work in many countries overseas although is it 'racist' of me to suggest that citizens of Asian countries where this has been done tend to follow the rules more than we Aussies? A lightweight waterproof wristband partnered to a smartphone app with those selfies and text messages would be a great way to get back to travelling, maybe it's not perfect but then nothing about this new Covid world is perfect!


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