Costa admits the possibility of health authorities tracking location of citizens’ mobile phones
The Prime Minister admitted on Thursday the possibility that the Directorate-General for Health (DGS) may seek to gain access to Portuguese mobile phones to warn them that whenever they have entered close contact with someone infected with COVID-19. A process that, moving forward, would be done without having access to citizen identification.
In an interview with the new podcast “Política com Palavra”, an initiative of the PS integrated in the celebrations of the 47th anniversary of the political party, Costa began by refusing any type of georeferenced screening to combat the new coronavirus: “I don’t think that in any case is this justified . There is, in fact, no recommendation from any European institution in this regard (…). What exists are a set of applications that are being developed, that anyone can download and that establishes, in the community, [anonymous] sharing, that are always anonymized. ”
“Not tracking, not geolocation, not identifying people,” he added. However, afterwards, he admitted that “the possible, at a maximum” that he has seen as “intrusive and that puts himself at the limit of what is compatible with the European data protection regulation and with constitutional values” is: “The possibility of, for example, the DGS gaining access from my mobile phone the identification of mobile phone numbers with which my mobile phone has been in close proximity for more than ‘x’ time and less than ‘x’ distance during the last 14 days and send a message to these people, without knowing who they are, stating that they have been in proximity for more than ten minutes, or 15 minutes, with the cell phone of a person who is said to be infected. ”
The prime minister reaffirmed in the interview that there is no finish line in sight regarding the fight against COVID-19, but stressed that the country needs to “prepare for the moment when it will start to see it”. “Therefore, we have set the timetable for the end of April to start removing the containment measures we have been in, knowing that we will have to work together, a year and a half, until there is a vaccine for the virus which is a threat, but we have to live with it.”
The PS leader again refused to allow the possibility of austerity measures to resolve the economic crisis. “We are currently struggling to control the pandemic without killing the economy. Now we have to move on to the second phase, which is to revive the economy without leaving the pandemic out of control. ” He stressed, however, that in none of these phases is “the equation is to cut wages, to make brutal tax increases”: “We have to maintain people’s expectations. One of the most perverse effects of the 2012 and 2013 measures was the subversion of people’s expectations. ”
António Costa also guaranteed that the investment plan in the country foreseen in the State Budget for 2020 remains and he even had “good news” to give regarding foreign investment: “In the last weeks, all the intentions of foreign investment that we have had have reaffirmed their intentions to invest, as we have even signalled new interests also.”
Regarding the European Council on Thursday, the Prime Minister said that the European response to the crisis is “a bazooka” of about 1.5 billion euros in European Union debt.
“To have a bazooka of this size, it is necessary for the EU to mobilize resources, which are not immediately mobilizable by the different Member States. Therefore, the best way to do this is to issue debt and the best way to issue debt is on the part of the European Union”, he added.