Singapore enforces Sars quarantine with 'Big Brother' online cameras

The Singapore government has turned to online cameras to enforce home quarantine of people suspected of being infected with...

The Singapore government has turned to online cameras to enforce home quarantine of people suspected of being infected with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars).

The city-state, with a population density of around 6,000 people per square kilometre, has been badly hit by the highly infectious virus, and has applied home quarantine orders to 490 people, mostly people who have been in contact with diagnosed Sars victims.

Following some cases where home quarantine was flouted, the Ministry of Health has ordered that electronic cameras be fitted at the homes of people served with home quarantine orders.

People under quarantine orders will be called at random times each day and asked to turn on the camera and present themselves in front of the camera to show their presence. Anyone found breaking the quarantine will be served a written warning and given an electronic wrist tag, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

The tag is linked to a telephone line and will alert the authorities if the person leaves the house again or tries to break the tag.

"We are facing an unprecedented situation," said Lee Boon Yang, minister for manpower. "We are dealing with a serious unseen threat. By working together in tackling Sars, we will enable life and businesses to continue with measures to safeguard our workers and citizens."

Singapore is well established as a regional centre for exhibitions and conferences, but the Sars scare has caused show organisers to scale back their plans. Research company IDC will replace all its overseas speakers at the upcoming Directions conference in Singapore with local speakers.

In Hong Kong, which has been even harder hit by Sars, the conference will be webcast rather than run as a live event, to protect the health of delegates, IDC said.

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