The Indian Government had ordered that all employees working at both the public and private sectors start using the government-backed contact tracing application and maintain social distancing in offices as it begins easing some of its lockdown measures in districts less affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The news came from the office of the Prime Minster of the country, Narendra Modi with the country being the second most populated nation on earth right after China as necessary measure needs to be put in place to curb off this spread. The country is so expected to extend its nationwide curb for another two weeks from Monday though it will allow “considerable relaxations” in lower-risk areas.
The country launched the Aarogya Setu (Health Bridge) mobile application which uses Bluetooth and GPS technology to alert users who may have come in contact with people who later test positive for COVID-19.
“Use of Aarogya Setu shall be made mandatory for all employees, both private and public,” the Ministry of Home Affairs said late on Friday. Company heads will be held responsible “to ensure 100% coverage” among employees.
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And as of the time of this writing more than 83 million times already in the country with a smartphone user base numbering up to 500 million according to the tech ministry. The app’s compulsory use is raising concerns among privacy advocates who says its unclear how the data will be used and the country has issues on Privacy laws especially as far as the app is concerned.
“Such a move should be backed by a dedicated law which provides strong data protection cover and is under the oversight of an independent body,” said Udbhav Tiwari, Public Policy Advisor for internet browser company Mozilla.
New Delhi made it known that the app will not infringe on privacy and that all data is collected anonymously. The app can help the authorities identify virus hotspots and better target health efforts, the tech ministry told Reuters in late April that those information will be used “only for administering necessary medical interventions”.
There is a notice by critics that nearly 400 million of India’s population do not have smartphones and would not be covered. The government on Friday further said that re-opening offices would also have to ensure gaps between shifts and staggered lunch breaks to contain the spread of the coronavirus that has infected 3.3 million worldwide and caused more than 230,000 death.
As of now there are about 37,000 reported cases in the country with about 1,218 deaths. India is set to allow some factories to re-open and companies are scrambling to piece together their plans. Smartphone makers Lava is likely to open its plant in Noida which is located at the Outskirts of New Delhi, next week said co-founder S.N. Rai.
As for Lava, the company working on moving its employees to temporarily move to a neighboring village where it has leased dormitories for about 800 workers and is proving food and transport according Rai.
“But even if we start production immediately, we will start with a maximum of 40% capacity,” said Rai.
Other sectors such as the automobile industry are also calling on the government of the country to allow them re-open their business being that the industry is the most hit by the pandemic. The automotive sector has lost about 23 billion (US$304 Million) a day, three lobby groups said in a letter to the home ministry urging the government to allow components makers and dealers to begin operations.