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Turkey Resorts to Tracking Citizens Via Mobile Phones to Enforce Quarantines

Turkey Resorts to Tracking Citizens Via Mobile Phones to Enforce Quarantines

Wednesday, 8 April, 2020 - 18:00
A worker sprays disinfectant outside Ortakoy Mosque, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, in Istanbul, Turkey, March 23, 2020. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

Turkey will monitor the mobile phones of those diagnosed with the new coronavirus to ensure they do not break quarantine, authorities said on Wednesday, marking the latest measure to stem an outbreak that has surged over the last month.

Turkey will start tracking citizens and send them a message and call them each time they leave their homes, the presidency’s Communications Directorate said.

They will be asked to return home and police will penalize those who continue to violate quarantine rules, it said, adding that Turkish law allows for processing of personal data without consent for “exceptional aims”.

Health minister Fahrettin Koca said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has increased by 4,117 in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of infections to 38,226.

He also reported 87 more deaths in the last 24 hours, bring the country’s death toll to 812.

The minister said 1,492 COVID-19 patients are currently in intensive care, including 995 who are intubated. At least 1,846 patients have recovered, according to figures Koca posted on his Twitter account.

The figures released Wednesday came as the World Health Organization expressed alarm over the “dramatic increase in virus spread” in Turkey over the last week.

Ankara has taken strict measures to limit social contact, quarantining some towns, banning mass prayers, closing schools, bars and restaurants and limiting inter-city travel.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly called on citizens to impose their own quarantine but stopped short of imposing a broad stay-at-home order.

China, Singapore, South Korea and other countries have asked residents to use apps and other technology to track their compliance with quarantines, but privacy activists argue such measures can compromise individual liberties.

The European Union is drawing up common rules for using mobile apps to track the spread of the virus, aiming to make better use of the technology and address privacy concerns.

The directorate said Turkey’s government will ensure that the personal data collected will not be used for any other aim.

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