One of the biggest bugbears for British Turkish Cypriots wanting to travel to the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus during the coronavirus pandemic has been entry restrictions into the country.
If it’s not a complete ban on flights to North Cyprus to keep the virus out, then it’s a mandatory stay in a single room in a government-approved quarantine centre for up to a fortnight with hugely varying standards in accommodation, all at a cost to the traveller.
The entry rules have changed frequently, but the barriers to visiting North Cyprus have remained. That’s all about to change thanks to an innovation the TRNC Health Ministry is currently trialling.
Last week, TRNC Health Minister Dr Ali Pilli announced that his ministry will be running a pilot scheme in November involving new arrivals wearing electronic tags, so they can self-isolate at home instead of being put up in a quarantine centre.
The test would involve 250 people arriving from category B countries such as Britain and Turkey, with the tag taking the form of a smart wristband.
Few other details have been revealed by Dr Pilli and his team. It’s not known, for example, which commercial partners are involved or how the passengers will be selected – but it’s clear the TRNC government’s intention is to get the scheme live as quickly as possible.
“We are hoping that this wristband project works, and that people will have plenty of confidence to be able to come for Christmas and the New Year,” Dr Pilli told Cyprus Today.
Electronic bracelet used to monitor Covid home-quarantine in Hong Kong
Electronic wristbands are already in use in other countries, enabling them to balance public health concerns, with travel, tourism and the economy.
Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates have all successfully introduced electronic monitoring devices for incoming travellers, allowing them to home quarantine instead of staying in a state-appointed facility.
T-VINE asked London-based security expert Aytach Hassan to explain how these smart wristbands work, and whether they can be a cost-effective solution for North Cyprus.
“This is a great move by the TRNC because the technology is already proven and has been in use for years. Electronic wristbands are like a watch, so it shouldn’t be uncomfortable for the wearer. In fact, lots of people already use smart watches for fitness, so they will be familiar with this type of technology,” Hassan told us.
“The monitoring devices are secure and convenient for all parties. They are tamper-proof and through GPS and Bluetooth, they can pinpoint your whereabouts with a high degree of accuracy – up to a few feet in fact,” he added.
Hassan, who heads Reliance Fire and Security and has 38 years’ experience in the sector, explained that the wristbands are waterproof, so can be kept on continuously, which is ideal for authorities that need to keep a constant tab on people.
“These devices are most commonly used for home monitoring of offenders given early release from prison with curfew conditions. If an offender breaks their curfew by going out of their home after a certain time, or they try to remove the electronic wristband, an alert is immediately sent to a control centre.”
Hassan envisages a similar approach to the Turkish Cypriot authorities using them to monitor people quarantining at home. He says that vital to the scheme’s success is using a robust and reliable smart watch, and a quality data monitoring control base.
“There are lots of firms providing electronic monitoring devices. Each kit includes a wristwatch or ankle bracelet and a charger, with the unit cost for each one about £150-£200, although the wholesale price is significantly cheaper.
“However, that’s just one part of the system. The Health Ministry needs to integrate the tracking devices with a robust control centre, so the data being transmitted from the devices is received and processed accurately in real time,” Hassan said.
“It’s better to work with a reputable firm with extensive experience, rather than opt for cheaper solutions that may be less effective,” advised Hassan, who has set up monitoring systems for hotels, hospitals, schools and care homes.
“The last thing a tourist wants is to be hauled up in front of the police because of a faulty device or poor transmission system that hasn’t captured their movements accurately,” added the security expert.
Dr Pilli has told local press that said he’s ‘not signed a contract with any supplier’ and the Health Ministry has yet to announce any tenders, so it remains to be seen who and how the service will be rolled out, especially if they are planning to implement the service for next month.
However, for Britons and others abroad who are desperate to visit North Cyprus, but are put off by the prospect and cost of staying in a quarantine centre, this new tagging system can’t come quick enough.
Journalist in UAE shows how an electronic wristband is used for home quarantine during the Covid-19 pandemic
Main image, top of TRNC Health Minister Dr Ali Pilli, 3 Nov. 2020, photo © Facebook / KKTC Saglik Bakanligi, and a smart watch (for illustrative purposes only), photo © WakoPako / shutterstock