COVID-19: China Turns to Cell Phones & Drones in Fight Against Virus

A Chinese man who had taken a trip to Wuhan— was amazed when cops turned up at his door after he returned, asking to inspect his temperature level.
COVID-19: China Turns to Cell Phones & Drones in Fight Against Virus

The man had quarantined himself at his home in Nanjing, eastern Jiangsu district, and stated he had not informed anybody regarding his current journey to the city. But by trawling travelling data from Wuhan, neighbourhood authorities were able to zero in on him and also send off police officers to his residence.

Apps to check for coronavirus travellers

If you're worried, you travelled with someone with the coronavirus, get these apps. Chinese internet company Qihoo 360 has partnered with a Chinese tech firm to introduce a platform that lets users check if they have recently travelled with someone who contracted the coronavirus. By entering the date of their journey, together with flight or train numbers, users can find out if they were travelling with someone who has been infected with the virus. According to local media reports, more than 21 million people used the service within two days of its launch.

Mapping to Avoid Infected Neighbourhoods

Chinese citizens have now moved on to use mapping programs and travel trackers to avoid neighbourhoods with the Coronavirus infection. The data mapping company QuantUrban and a third-party WeChat mini-program developer have created platforms that collect official information on the Coronavirus-infected communities and map it geographically so that users can gauge how close they are to infection sites. A Chinese search-engine and mapping provider has produced an online map that allows users to track the final destination of outbound car trips from Wuhan in the days leading to the city's shutdown.

Tracking Travelers from Hubei

The authorities are using people's cellphones to determine if they have been to the Hubei province - the epicentre of the outbreak. At a high-speed rail station in the eastern city of Yiwu, officials demanded that passengers send the text messages and then show their location information to the authorities before being permitted to leave the station. Those who had passed through Hubei were unlikely to be allowed entry.

In January, a person infected with the coronavirus used public transportation to crisscross the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, potentially exposing those along the way to the highly contagious pathogen. By using this digital-surveillance, authorities were able to track-down to the minute, the sick person's exact journey through the city's subway system. Officials then published the details of the person's movements on social media and warned residents to get themselves checked if they had been in the vicinity at the time.

Drone to check the temperature.

A neighbourhood in China's eastern city of Nanjing has a novel solution to check the temperature of people under home quarantine without actually going to visit: Drones. A DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual equipped with a thermal sensor has been used to check the temperatures outside windows. Through a speaker attached to the top of the drone, an operator on the ground asks people to open their windows and stand by while it checks in public.

In a town in Chengdu, a drone piloted by government officials busted a gathering of people who were playing a game of mahjong in an alley. Although mahjong is a popular holiday pastime for many Chinese people, the government managed to disperse the group by shaming them in public with a megaphone. Similar events of public shaming are seen in many cities and villages across China, albeit often in a more humorous way.

To contain the spread of the virus, drones are also used to monitor activities such as traffic and waste disposal. In Shanghai, drones have been deployed at inter-city roads for monitoring while officials check travellers' temperatures. In Zhongshan, drones are used to oversee the disposal of medical waste coming out of hospitals.

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