March 25, 2020
On the one hand, Americans rightly cherish their civil liberties. On the other, we are in the midst of what could be a catastrophic public health crisis.
So where does the balance between the two lie?
I ask because this article in the on-line magazine The Register relates that authorities in Hong Kong are using “government electronic monitoring system” (wristband-based smartphone-tracking technology) to locate potential COVID-19 carriers who are flouting quarantine regulations.
This system is augmented by a much more old-fashioned technique: having neighbors report to the police when they see people evading quarantine. Check out this video for one such instance.
Does it work? Well, yes and no.
As of March 13th, Hong Kong (population: 7.3 million) had 178 and no deaths.
Unfortunately, it appears that Hong Kong may have loosened its grip a bit prematurely. According to this article on the Marketwatch web site, there are now 356 confirmed cases and four deaths in Hong Kong, and authorities are concerned that the city-state may be on the cusp of experiencing another wave of the pandemic.
In the meantime, what’s a civil libertarian to do?