Using tech to combat epidemic

August 12, 2022

Technology plays an important role in the Government’s anti-epidemic work. It uses technologies to combat COVID-19 with precision, and the electronic wristband is one of them.


From July 15, people who test positive for COVID-19 and are placed under home isolation will be required to wear an electronic wristband.


The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) is responsible for the distribution and wearing of electronic wristbands, and ensuring people activate the StayHomeSafe mobile application.


The office’s Senior Systems Manager (Home Quarantine Team) Nancy Lui said the work progress has been very smooth.


“Every day, we can complete more than 80% of the name list provided by the Department of Health. And for the rest of those (on the) name list, we can complete them on the following day.”


She also emphasised that the user’s privacy is protected while wearing the wristband.


“The electronic wristband, together with the StayHomeSafe mobile app, make use of geofencing technology.


“The technology examines signals that are commonly detectable from the residence including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other telecommunication signals.


“We will examine the changes in the strength of these signals and then we will ascertain whether the persons under our monitoring might have left their dwelling place.


“This technology will not make use of the actual location of the person wearing the electronic wristband and so this will help to protect their privacy.”


Those infected with COVID-19 are also advised not to leave their dwelling place or remove the wristband during the isolation period.


Ms Lui explained: “Our backend monitoring system keeps receiving signals from the electronic wristbands and the StayHomeSafe mobile app in real time.


“Whenever there are cases of an infected person having left their dwelling place, alerts will be generated into the system.


“Our staff of the Compulsory Quarantine Support Centre will then make phone calls to the infected person for follow-up.


“Our system will also detect if there is any damage done to the electronic wristband and then we will follow up by making phone calls to the infected persons and all these cases will also (be) passed to the Department of Health for their follow-up too.”


Except for specified circumstances, cutting off the electronic wristband or uninstalling the StayHomeSafe mobile app is considered a violation of the isolation order and is a criminal offence. Offenders are subject to a maximum fine of $10,000 and imprisonment for six months.


Secretary for Innovation, Technology & Industry Prof Sun Dong today visited the Compulsory Quarantine Support Centre to give encouragement to OGCIO colleagues for their hard work.


Prof Sun said that technology plays an important part in anti-epidemic work. Coupled with the Red Code launched on Monday, the electronic wristband helps monitor and prevent confirmed cases from leaving the designated isolation premises and minimises the risk of the spread of infection.


He noted that staff from Police, the Customs & Excise Department and the Immigration Department also assisted in the work of activating the electronic wristbands during the initial stage of the measure’s implementation, which gave the OGCIO ample time to make prompt arrangements for the distribution and activation of the wristbands.


Prof Sun said: “The OGCIO has been using the StayHomeSafe app together with the electronic wristbands to carry out monitoring work on persons under home quarantine since the outbreak of the epidemic.


“Four monitoring centres were set up and over 700 serving and retired civil servants from various departments, as well as volunteers from the information technology sector, had offered assistance to the monitoring work amid the service surge.


“I would like to express my gratitude to civil service colleagues from various departments for their dedicated efforts in supporting the anti-epidemic work of Hong Kong over the past two years, demonstrating the team spirit of the whole Government in fighting the epidemic together.”

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