Asia Minute: South Korea Exports Wristbands to Track Quarantine Breakers

May 21, 2020

The number of visitors to Hawaii has been creeping higher in recent weeks, and there’s a growing focus on how to enforce the 14-day quarantine. South Korea has been using a method for months that’s now moving to a new level.

South Korea has a new export: electronic wristbands. The country’s been using them since late April to track people who didn’t follow the rules on self-quarantine.

Authorities took this step after some people tried to fool a government tracking app by going out without taking their phones. Local media reported that over the first week and a half of April, 57,000 people coming into South Korea were confined to a 14-day self-quarantine, but more than 160 were caught breaking curfew.

The tracking wrist have apparently been so successful that Saudi Arabia has placed a big order. South Korea’s Yonhap news service says the Saudi government is buying 100,000 wristbands for about 8 dollars apiece.

Yonhap also reports quarantine violators in South Korea now have a choice between wearing the wristband or isolating at government-designated facilities.

Hong Kong has had mixed results with wristbands. An early version rolled out in mid-March was not a success — in fact the Associated Press reported two-thirds of them didn’t work.

The AP says the current version in use in Hong Kong has been improved, and is used in combination with phone checks and occasional in-person visits by authorities to confirm the person in quarantine is following the rules.