Seoul mulls electronic wristbands for quarantine violators 

Authorities were looking for practical and effective ways to monitor people isolated at homes and facilities. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 April 2020

Seoul mulls electronic wristbands for quarantine violators 

  • Repeat offenders face $8,000 fines or up to one year in prison

SEOUL: South Korea is considering electronic wristbands as a way to track people who break quarantine conditions amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The idea follows a rising number of people flouting the rules, leaving their homes despite the government’s tough stance against violations.

South Korea reported 53 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the nation’s total number of infections to 10,384, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the total number of reported deaths rose to 200. 

“A majority of people are following self-isolation rules, but there have been some cases of (people) leaving (designated venues),” Yoon Tae-ho, director-general for public health policy at the Ministry of Health, told reporters. “Unless the self-isolation rules are observed, it will make the government consider various options to prevent such a move.”

Authorities were looking for practical and effective ways to monitor people isolated at homes and facilities, he said, adding there were concerns about electronic wristbands in terms of privacy and the infringements of rights.

The electronic wristband, which would be connected to a mobile app, would trigger an alarm and alert authorities when it moved more than 10 meters away from the smartphone installed with the app, ministry officials said.

South Korea has a two-week quarantine period for all international arrivals. Authorities have found 75 people breaching the self-isolation rules, and six of them are to be prosecuted.

The government has increased penalties for quarantine violators to a maximum one-year jail term or $8,000 in fines.

Several people, including foreign nationals, have in recent weeks broken the self-isolation rules put in place to combat the spread of coronavirus. 

The city of Gunpo, south of Seoul, reported a married couple in their 50s to the police for ignoring the rules. Health authorities found that the couple, who had tested positive for the virus, went out several times during the self-isolation period to visit an art gallery, lottery shops, supermarkets, and banks.  

In Gunsan, around 270 kilometers south of Seoul, three Vietnamese students were found leaving their quarantine premises without permission on April 3. They went out, leaving their smartphones behind to avoid being tracked by the authorities. The Ministry of Justice is now considering deporting the students.
 


Ex-UK spy chief: COVID-19 could be from Wuhan lab

Updated 04 June 2020

Ex-UK spy chief: COVID-19 could be from Wuhan lab

  • Sir Richard Dearlove cites controversial study saying virus possibly man-made

LONDON: The coronavirus pandemic may have started by accident in a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan, according to a former British spy.

Sir Richard Dearlove, who headed the UK’s intelligence agency MI6 until 2004, told the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that the origins of the virus may not reside in a wet market in Wuhan, where it had previously been suggested that it passed to humans from bats.

Instead, he claims that it may have escaped from a lab, citing a controversial study by British and Norwegian researchers, including Prof. Angus Dalgleish of St. George’s at the University of London and John Fredrik Moxnes, a chief scientific adviser to the Norwegian military.

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READ MORE: Did this Chinese government lab in Wuhan leak the coronavirus?

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The Chinese city is home to two labs that have carried out tests on bats, as well as coronaviruses, in the past: The Wuhan Center for Disease Control and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The presence of both these facilities has fueled speculation that COVID-19 is the result of human error, and that the virus escaped the confines of testing to reach the local population by accident.

It is a theory that has been promoted most notably by US President Donald Trump, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has previously talked of “enormous evidence” that the virus is a man-made pathogen.

It has drawn criticism, though, from many scientists worldwide, and the study in question has been rejected by a number of scientific journals.

Evidence published in British medical journal The Lancet claimed to be able to trace 27 of the first 41 identified COVID-19 cases back to the same Wuhan wet market, reinforcing the original hypothesis.

The US National Intelligence Director’s office, meanwhile, said it took the view of “the wider scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified,” though it added that it would continue to assess all evidence to the contrary.

The study, though, claims to have identified evidence that the virus’s genetic sequence may have been edited, calling it a “remarkably well-adapted virus for human co-existence.” 

Sir Richard said scientists at one of the facilities may have been conducting “gene-splicing experiments” in an effort to identify potentially dangerous pathogens like the SARS epidemic in 2003.

“It’s a risky business if you make a mistake,” Sir Richard told the Telegraph. “Look at the stories ... of the attempts by the (Chinese) leadership to lock down any debate about the origins of the pandemic and the way that people have been arrested or silenced.

“I think it will make every country in the world rethink how it treats its relationship with China and how the international community behaves towards the Chinese leadership.”

The UK government has said it has seen “no evidence” to suggest that the virus originated in a lab.