Japan plans to use facial recognition technology, originally intended for security purposes, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus when it hosts the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year, government sources said Wednesday.
The technology was initially intended to ensure security identification of personnel involved in the games and the media, and detect suspicious persons. But virus countermeasures have become an urgent concern for the government in its hope of staging a successful Olympics, which has already been delayed by a year due to the pandemic.
According to the sources, one plan is to station security cameras equipped with the technology at stadiums and venues to record spectators’ faces and body surface temperatures, and to see if they are wearing masks.
The recorded data is expected to help prevent cluster infections in case an individual at a game is discovered to be infected later, by helping pinpoint possible virus carriers, tracing their routes and notifying those who were in close contact.
The government is also considering placing cameras at the entrances to athletes’ villages and training camps to record the dates and times athletes entered and left, the sources said.
It will thus allow authorities to check on whether athletes and visitors in high risk areas are complying with government requests to temporarily limit their movements to prevent virus transmission.
The derived data on spectators’ temperatures and movements during matches will be expunged after the games end for protection of privacy.
The measures are expected to be incorporated in an interim report to be compiled by the end of the year by the government’s coronavirus countermeasures council.
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