Intelligence services in Pakistan deploy covert surveillance systems that is normally used to locate militants to track coronavirus patients and the people they make contact with instead.
The government has turned to the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for help in tackling the virus, which is still spreading at an accelerating rate across Pakistan, in a program publicly admired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Information about the initiative were not released, but two officials said intelligence services are using geo-fencing and mobile surveillance technologies that are normally used to track high-value targets like homegrown and international activists.
A lack of understanding, shame and anxiety has led to some individuals with symptoms who don’t seek care or even leave clinics, while some who have had contact with patients with viruses have flouted laws of self-isolation.
A senior security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said agencies are now “quite efficiently” using the technology to track COVID-19 cases.
Geo-fencing has helped officials monitor neighborhoods on lockdown, an unobtrusive tracking service that alerts authorities when someone leaves a particular geographic area.
Authorities are now responding to Covid-19 patients’ calls to track whether people talk about symptoms. “The trace-and-follow program essentially lets us identify corona patients’ cell phones as well as anybody they contact since their disappearance before,” said an intelligence official.
Khan recently commended the initiative, which received no public discussion or criticism for its use in the war against viruses. “It has been used against terrorism originally, but now it is helpful against coronavirus,” he said.