Wednesday, April 14, 2021
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Gujarat cities with live coronavirus patients pinned on Google Maps will show you how close the virus is

These are unprecedented times and no one knows where we will go from here after coronavirus is behind us. At such time, general public health and safety for individual privacy seems to be a tradeoff authorities are choosing.

City administration in Ahmedabad and Surat in Gujarat, in their daily coronavirus bulletin, have been giving out information of individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The Surat Municipal corporation has also been pinning residential details on maps so that people in the localities where there are coronavirus positive cases could be alert.

Surat Municipal corporation pins coronavirus positve cases on maps.

Similarly, Amdavad Municipal Corporation, too, has been giving out details of individuals who have been tested positive. While the corporation does not have an official map, Ahmedabad-based techies volunteered and have been pinning locations on Google based on the inputs provided by the corporation.

Google MyMaps on live coronavirus positive cases in Ahmedabad

One of the volunteers, Abhay Jani, who created the above map said that they source it from the data released by the AMC.

Public listing of such addresses does raise a question regarding the privacy of individuals, especially that of the social stigma that could come attached to being coronavirus positive. However, it is for the bigger good says Jani. “I may remove the data if authorities raise concern at large but this pinning of individuals on maps only helps people understand how near/far they are from X residential society where COVID-19 cases are found,” he says.

“I talked to journalists and people working with authorities here and they all told me privacy of citizens is highest priority. However, if they are putting out details in public, that means they are taking strict measures and want people to come forward if they came in touch with these individuals. Or at best stay at home if they are in red zones (where case are high),” he said.

Amdavad Municipal Corporation also has dedicated helplines for doorstep delivery of groceries in a bid to eliminate the need of citizens having to step out of their homes.

Authorities are also using drones for aerial surveillance. Those violating section 144 orders and gathering on rooftops are identified and cases are registered against them.

However, this is not it. Authorities in other parts of the country are also using technology to keep track of coronavirus patients and ensuring that the contagion is contained. Delhi Police, for example, has been tracking mobile phones of as many as 25,000 individuals who are on home quarantine. Recently, the Delhi Police registered FIRs against those who were found violating home quarantine. Of 198 FIRs registered, at least 176 were based on mobile phone tracking and surprise visits.

In fact, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has upped its ante and is increasing surveillance.

Over a thousand teams are set up for increased surveillance.

Another volunteer who has been helping the authorities in the fight against coronavirus said that due to increased surveillance, vegetable markets which were identified in zones where there were more positive cases were moved out. “People avoid going to several areas because of the map,” he said.

Similar steps have been taken in other parts of the world like South Korea which has as per the latest figures on Chinese coronavirus trackers has managed to fare pretty well on flattening the curve. These are unprecedented times and no one knows where we will go from here after coronavirus is behind us. At such time, general public health and safety for individual privacy seems to be a tradeoff authorities are choosing.

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Nirwa Mehta
Politically incorrect. Author, Flawed But Fabulous.

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