BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - The Slovak government approved legislation on Thursday that will allow people returning from abroad to self-isolate at home so long as they use a mobile app that will check on them, rather than be forced into quarantine in state-run facilities.
The compulsory quarantine, one of a series of measures taken by Slovakia to curb the spread of the coronavirus, has been criticized by Slovaks living abroad as well as by the state ombudswoman, who has said it potentially breaches basic human rights.
Health Minister Marek Krajci said the launch of the application allowing a “smart” quarantine could be launched next Monday after it is approved by parliament.
“This smart solution will allow returnees to self-isolate at home if they agree to install the application after crossing the border,” he said.
Details on how the app will work are expected to be announced on Monday but one of the options is that it would use face-identification technology.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic had defended the quarantine’s role in helping detect infections and prevent the coronavirus’s spread. Official figures show people who are or were at the state-run centres account for almost 13% of the 1,477 positive cases confirmed in the country.
Slovakia, a European Union member state of 5.5 million, has recorded 27 deaths. Like other European countries it is gradually easing its lockdown measures.
The quarantine system has affected mostly Slovaks returning home, since foreigners are barred from entry, unless they have a right to stay.
The government has also approved a phone app tracking contacts of infected people.
It is not clear when that app will be launched, however, as the Constitutional Court on Wednesday suspended parts of the existing law allowing state authorities to access data collected by telecommunications operators, saying some of its clauses were insufficiently clear.
Reporting by Tomas Mrva; Editing by Frances Kerry