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Coronavirus: Turkey to track patients via mobile phones to enforce quarantines

Those who violate isolation will be asked to return home or be penalised, according to the new measures
Seagulls in front of the Maiden's Tower in Istanbul on 8 April 2020 (AFP)

Turkey is set to monitor the mobile phones of citizens diagnosed with the highly contagious coronavirus to ensure their commitment to quarantine, according to the presidency’s director of communications Fahrettin Altun. 

Authorities will start tracking the movement of those who tested positive for the virus, also known as Covid-19, and will send them a message or call them once they leave their homes, authorities said in a promotion video shared by Altun on Wednesday.

Translation: We continue to add new measures to our fight against coronavirus. Our newest step is "Pandemic Isolation Tracking Project," developed by our health ministry. With this project, we are now stronger against the virus!

Those who violate the quarantine will be asked to return home or be penalised, according to the new measures. Turkish law allows for the processing of personal data without consent for "exceptional aims".

Since the first case was confirmed on 11 March, Turkey's coronavirus cases have surged to more than 34,000, with 725 deaths as of Tuesday.

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.

Israel, 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.

Authorities said in the promotion video that Turkey's government will ensure that the personal data collected will not be used for any other aim.