India said Wednesday that it plans to manufacture thousands of wristbands that will monitor the locations and temperatures of coronavirus patients and help perform contact tracing.
The wristband project aims to track quarantined patients and aid health workers and those delivering essential services. India is ramping up surveillance as it begins to ease one of the world’s strictest virus lockdowns.
It has 19,984 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 640 deaths, and experts fear the epidemic’s peak could still be weeks away. Thousands of wristbands are expected to be deployed, but an exact figure has not been released.
The wristbands mirror a similar program in Hong Kong, where authorities used bands to monitor overseas travellers ordered to self-isolate.
Broadcast Engineering Consultants India, a government-owned company, will present wristband designs to hospitals and state governments next week and work with Indian start-ups to manufacture them.
George Kuruvilla, the company’s chairman, said the wristbands are likely to be rolled out in May.
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged the country’s 1.3 billion people to download a government contact-tracing app called Arogya Setu to help determine their infection risk. It has been downloaded over 50 million times since it was launched on April 2.
The monitoring has raised privacy concerns.
Dr. Anant Bhan, a public health and bioethics expert, said it is “important to factor in privacy protections and data protections” for both apps and wristbands.
“It is also important to ensure that where possible, consent is sought for the use of location tracking and sharing. Such initiatives could be useful for public health and surveillance purposes, but should not be used to stigmatize individuals or communities,” he said.
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