The UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) proposed the government should use “electronic monitoring” to make sure people who enter the country observe quarantine. A member of the ruling Conservative Party had also suggested a similar measure.
According to SAGE, “electronic monitoring” is better than forcing people to quarantine in hotels. Last week, the government said that as from February 15, people who enter the country will have to quarantine in hotels. The government insists that isolating people entering the country is a necessary step to prevent new COVID-19 variants waves in the country.
The government plans to book about 28,000 hotel rooms for the first quarantine period, and has even paid hotels a deposit of £55 ($39) million.
But the hotel plan has its challenges. To start with, according to an analysis by The Telegraph, up to 205,000 people could enter the country before the hotel plan takes effect. Additionally, the government plans to recover the money from travelers, but has no plan to handle those who refuse to pay.
Considering those challenges, “digital methods” are being proposed by SAGE. However, the agency acknowledged that GPS tracking is not without challenges. For it to be effective, the government would have to come up with a draconian law that mandates people to carry their phones everywhere they go.
The GPS tracking proposal has major privacy concerns. Before the pandemic, a majority of people would have cringed at the idea.
However, a majority of UK citizens are in favor of invasive tracking. A poll conducted by YouGov found out that 70% of people supported such a measure.
The fear of getting the virus has made people more willing to sacrifice their privacy. In a separate poll by YouGov, 45% of people are in favor of allowing the government to track their mobile phones; only 42% of respondents opposed such a measure.
Sources inside the Boris Johnson government allegedly told The Times that the government does not yet have plans to track people using their phones. However, the government is under a lot of pressure to find a solution that keeps international arrivals from bringing new variants and sparking more waves.
“People are absolutely incredulous as to how the country is closed yet our borders are open,” a source in the Labour Party said. “It doesn’t make any sense. The Home Secretary can’t credibly talk tough on borders and then leave us exposed to mutations.”
“More dither and delay is unacceptable. The British people demand we protect our borders — we must act now,” said Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Labour Party’s Shadow Home Secretary.