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Pakistan uses militant-tracking tech to hunt coronavirus

Pakistan uses Militant Tracking Tech to Fight Coronavirus

ISLAMABAD – Intelligence services in Pakistan use clandestine surveillance equipment that is usually used to identify terrorists to monitor coronavirus patients and the people they come into contact with instead.
The government has turned to the intelligence agencies for help in tackling the virus, which is still spreading at an accelerating rate across Pakistan, in a program publicly admired by the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Information about the project was not released, but two officials told AFP that intelligence services are using geo-fencing and telephone surveillance systems that are normally used to search for high-value targets like homegrown and international activists.
A lack of understanding, shame and paranoia has led to some people with symptoms who don’t seek care or even leave hospitals.
In contrast, others who have had contact with patients with viruses have flouted laws of self-isolation.
A senior security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that agencies are now using the technology to monitor coronavirus cases “very effectively.”
“And those who tested positive but went into hiding have been successfully tracked by the government,” the security official said.
Geo-fencing has helped officials control communities on lockdown, a covert monitoring device that warns authorities when someone enters a particular geographic area.
Authorities are now listening to COVID-19 patients’ calls to track whether their contacts speak of symptoms.
“The trace-and-follow program essentially lets us follow corona patients’ cell phones as well as anyone they contact after their disappearance before,” said an intelligence official.
Khan recently commended the program, which faced little public debate or scrutiny over its use in the fight against viruses.
“It was used against terrorism in the first place, but now it has come in handy against coronavirus,” he said.
In Pakistan, almost 60,000 people tested positive for the disease, and more than 1,200 patients died.
But with only minimal testing, officials fear the true figures are even higher.
In Pakistan, officials were struggling to formulate a coherent national plan to contain the coronavirus. Khan was hesitant to call for a sweeping lockout, claiming that it could not be supported by the poor country.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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