The quarantine bracelets, to be introduced on Friday, will be mandatory for people who have tested positive and are quarantining at home to ensure they do not leave the building during their isolation period.
Of course, the fact that China wants to keep an eye on Hong Kong residents who have a nasty habit of revolting is nothing to do with it.
Lo Chung-mau, the city’s new health secretary said: “We have to make sure that home isolation is more precise while being humane. ”
Breaching a mandatory quarantine order in Hong Kong carries a fine of up to HK$25,000 ($3,200) and up to six months in jail.
Hong Kong has previously used two types of bracelets to track people under home quarantine at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020: an earlier plastic wristband with a QR code and a later one with a bulky electronic tracker. Lo did not clarify which one would be introduced on Friday.
Under the health codes system, which tracks the movement of people via mobile phones, citizens will be allowed to enter public spaces if the QR code on their account is green. The code turns yellow if people have been in close contact with an infected person, and red if the person has tested positive for the virus.
Under the Hong Kong health code, arriving travellers will also be marked “yellow”, Lo said in his announcement and will not be allowed in “high-risk” venues such as hospitals and aged care facilities, and cannot engage in high-risk activities, including taking off masks.
Human rights watchdogs have criticised China’s health code system as an invasion of privacy, warning that Beijing uses data collected on the system to control and restrict freedoms.
Local experts warn Hong Kong’s health codes and bracelets may have the unintended consequence of swaying people to not report positive test results out of fear of major disruptions to their lives.
Ben Cowling, chair professor of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, said the measures would have a minimal impact on the virus but would have an impact on testing and reporting. Basically, if you get sick you are hardly going to tell the authorities if you have to spend your life strapped to a device until a government official decides you no longer need to be tracked.