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Taiwan uses smartphones to monitor patients quarantined over virus scare

Taiwan has introduced smartphones to monitor anyone under quarantine for the deadly coronavirus as artificial intelligence plays an increasing role in tracking the global spread of the epidemic. 

The island of 23 million currently has ten confirmed cases of the disease, which can cause fever and breathing difficulties. All are reported to be in a stable condition. 

According to Taiwanese officials, direct contacts of the infected, who remain quarantined in their homes, have been issued with smartphones to allow health officials to remotely check on their condition by video and to ensure that they do not breach strict curbs to protect public health. 

Chuang Jen-hsiang, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) deputy director-general, said the recipients would be notified with a message if they travelled too far from their homes, and that police officers would visit them if they did not answer, reported the Taipei Times. 

Anyone who refused to accept the device could face a fine of up to £7,500 or a penalty of £3,800 under the Communicable Disease Control Act for refusing to cooperate with the policy, he said. 

For serious breaches, offenders could be placed under compulsory quarantine at a designated facility. 

The Taiwanese CDC’s epidemic command centre revealed on Monday that 166 suspected cases are in quarantine, although preliminary tests for 85 have proved negative. 

A further 515 contacts of the ten confirmed cases have been traced, with 35 developing symptoms. However, 2019-nCoV has been ruled out for 32. 

Some 200 Taiwanese citizens were evacuated on Monday night from China’s Hubei Province, the epicentre of the virus.

The strict controls aim to reassure the Taiwanese public who still remain scarred by the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2003. The government claims that a delayed response by the World Health Organisation, which would only deal with Taipei through Beijing, cost lives. 

It has since fine-tuned its own pandemic control system. Taiwan, which China seeks to annex, has its own government and separate health system. 

In South Korea, the overwhelming response to an unofficial app designed to keep tabs on virus-infected patients revealed the public’s thirst for information as panic rises. 

Over the weekend, more than 3 million visited the “Coronamap” site, created by engineering student Lee Dong-hoon, said the Korea Herald. 

The map shows places visited by Korea’s 15 confirmed cases and where they are currently being treated, sourcing its information from media reports, the centres for disease control and prevention, and tip-offs. 

A separate real-time tracking map created by Johns Hopkins University’s Centre for Systems Science and Engineering follows coronavirus cases across the world, collecting data from disease control and prevention centres in the US, Europe, China, and the WHO. 


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