Some say that the move was necessary to ensure that people did not step out during the home quarantine period

Coronavirus Coronavirus Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 21:57

The Karnataka government has published a list revealing the addresses of all the people who are quarantined in their homes in the state. 

The ‘district-wise list of home quarantined people’ revealed the name of the apartment and the house number of around 20,000 people who are quarantined. It also contained details of the date of arrival and transit of the residents who returned from abroad in recent weeks.

Within minutes of the release of the details, it was downloaded and circulated widely on social media. The state government has allowed the details to stay on its website even now, suggesting that the decision to reveal personal details was intentional and not by accident. 

Details of as many as 14,910 people were revealed in the list for Bengaluru alone. 

Some sources say the list was released in the hope of informing people about the addresses of people quarantined at home, however it has led to a fresh wave of panic among residents living in and around the apartments which have been named. 

A resident who wished to remain unidentified told TNM that the release of the list sparked panic among residents in their apartment in Bengaluru. The individual, who is also part of the apartment’s resident welfare association (RWA), said that a man living in the apartment informed them that he was returning from Australia earlier this week.  “We informed him that he will have to be quarantined at home for two weeks and that arrangements will be made to ensure he receives daily essentials like grocery items,” says the member of the RWA.

“He took precautions and did not touch the lift when he entered the apartment. Even when the police visited the apartment to confirm that he was quarantined, he insisted that the police officials should come to his house instead of calling him downstairs since that would defeat the purpose of being quarantined at home,” added the RWA member. 

The six members of the RWA were aware of the situation but on Tuesday, when the Karnataka government made the list of addresses of people quarantined at home public, it did not take long for the other residents in the apartment to realise that someone in their building was quarantined at home. “In the list, the flat number is also listed but in our case, they had made a typo while publishing the number. Our apartment residents began asking questions about the identity of this person,” says the association member. 

The apartment association members decided that they would not reveal the identity of the man and only told the residents that they were aware of the situation and that the person was cooperating with them. “People are panicking even more after looking up the list. They are watching reports of those with stamps walking around and are worried that it might happen in their own apartment. But people who are quarantined are not COVID-19 patients and need not be ostracised. They are simply people who have come from a foreign country,” explains the RWA member. 

“In our neighbourhood too, people panicked after the list was made public. The panic is directly related to the extent of information that is revealed. I am not saying that information should be hidden but in situations like this, we have people who act based on half-knowledge. So keeping that in mind, we should ensure that only relevant people are informed,” says another resident. In the resident’s neighbourhood, a man had returned from New Zealand and was quarantined at home. 

However, others say that the move was necessary to ensure that people who had returned from abroad did not step out during the home quarantine period. “We identified the persons who were in quarantine in our apartment through the list. They had not identified themselves on the apartment WhatsApp group earlier,” says another Bengaluru resident. 

The Karnataka government began stamping passengers arriving from abroad with indelible ink on March 18. The state government also tasked the police with tracing all foreign-returned residents and stamp them. The stamp on the back of the hand also details the date on which their two-week home quarantine period will end. 

Questions have been raised on whether it was necessary to divulge addresses including flat numbers of the people currently quarantined in their homes and whether it has legal grounds. Justice Srikrishna, who helped draft India’s Data Protection Bill stated that even under the privacy law, there are exceptions for extraordinary circumstances where the government can invoke public safety to make details like this public.

Read: Karnataka makes addresses of quarantined residents public, raises privacy concerns