Tracking devices to enforce Covid regulations arrive

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By Elesha George

[email protected]

Antigua and Barbuda will become one of a few countries that will start testing wristbands that can track persons in quarantine.

The devices, touted as part of improved Covid monitoring, are anticipated to curb violations by persons in self-quarantine by ensuring that they stay at home.

More than 400 bracelets were expected to arrive on island on Thursday evening.

The bands will be able to alert the authorities if the wearers leave home or try to remove them.

“We are expecting that during the course of tomorrow, we would have the first completed prototype of that application that will allow us to be able to utilise bracelets to better manage home-based quarantining,” Cabinet spokesman, Melford Nicholas, said yesterday.

The Ministry of Technology, through the Antigua and Barbuda Science and Innovation Park (ABSIP) programme that will be testing the devices, has been working with a university in Canada to improve the country’s contact tracing capabilities.

Testing and validation will take place this week and into next week, after which time the quarantine authority will be authorised to use them.

The regulations will make it a fined offence for persons to remove the bracelet while in quarantine.

When questioned on whether or not such an undertaking would infringe on the constitutional rights of persons, Nicholas said “the government is protected under law”.

He explained that, “The state of emergency still obtains, and it is under the state of emergency that these regulations come into being. The actions of the ministries and the action of the government strictly comport to those obligations and authorities that come with the implementation of the state of emergency.”

The state of emergency expires at the end of October.

The wristbands and other published regulations came as a result of persons in self- quarantine continuously violating the order to stay home for the stipulated 14-day period, according to health officials.

The Cabinet believes that “the reckless behaviour of a growing number of people is the result of a false belief in their invincibility, and in a false sense of safety from the disease.”

Parties and social gatherings which disregard Covid-19 rules, and returning nationals frequently disobeying the conditions under which they were allowed to re-enter the country, are some of the causes for concern.

People and residents have again been urged to abide by the rules requiring the wearing of masks, the practicing of social distancing, and the frequent sanitising of hands. 

The full regulations are to be published by the Central Board of Health (CBH) today.

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