The government of South Australia, one of the country’s six states, has implemented a new policy requiring Australians to use an app with facial recognition software and geolocation to prove that they are abiding by a 14-day quarantine for travel within the country.
While a conservative expert described the policy as “Orwellian,” he told Fox News that it represents an improvement over the current COVID-19 policy. Australians voluntarily choose the quarantine app over alternative quarantine measures.
Australia has banned international travel, unless residents have a permit to leave the country. The country has also severely restricted domestic travel. Residents must spend 14 days in quarantine upon return.
Steven Marshall, premier of the state of South Australia, launched the quarantine app policy in late August. Residents returning from New South Wales and Victoria, two other Australian states, may spend their 14 days in post-travel quarantine at home, rather than in a hotel, so long as they download and use the “Orwellian” app, developed by the South Australian government, ABC News Australia reported.
The app uses geolocation and facial recognition software to track those in quarantine. The app will contact people at random, asking them to provide proof of their location within 15 minutes.
“We don’t tell them how often or when, on a random basis they have to reply within 15 minutes,” Marshall said.
If the resident cannot verify his or her location or identity when requested, the South Australia Health Department will notify the police, who will then conduct an in-person check on the person in quarantine. Marshall said the government will not be storing any of the information provided to the app.
In a statement to Fox News, the government of South Australia noted that registration to use the app for home quarantine is voluntary. Only about 20 people who have applied for the program are using the app in early September.
“The home quarantine app is for a selected cohort of returning South Australians who have applied to be a part of the trial. if successful, it will help safely ease the burden of travel restrictions associated with the pandemic,” a government spokesperson told Fox News.
“I think it is accurate to describe it as Orwellian, but one has to understand the context,” Robert Carling, an economics senior fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies, told Fox News. “It is home quarantine Australian style, and the alternative is hotel quarantine Australian style, under police guard, which people hate.”
Carling explained that South Australia is launching a trial home quarantine as a replacement for hotel quarantine, a nationwide policy, “and Australians would be happy to take any form of home quarantine instead of hotel quarantine.”