Governments across Europe are turning to technology to track the coronavirus
Germany has proposed using big data and location tracking to isolate people with coronavirus to keep the pandemic under control once social distancing measures now in force have slowed its spread, media reported on Friday.
The Interior Ministry's strategy paper recommends following South Korea in aggressively testing for COVID-19 and using smartphone location data to help trace people who have come into contact with those infected with the flu-like disease.
These measures would be critical to prevent renewed flare-ups once measures now in force - such as school closures and restrictions on movement - succeed in slowing coronavirus, according to reports in Der Spiegel and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
Governments across Europe are turning to technology to track the coronavirus, an approach that seeks to learn from Asia but is also putting the region's privacy rules to the test.
Government surveillance is a sensitive topic in Germany, where memories of the dreaded East German Stasi secret police and its extensive network of informants are still fresh in the minds of many.
Germany has some of the toughest privacy laws in the world due to its experience with state surveillance systems once used by the Nazis and the Stasi.
The German study, entitled "How We Get COVID-19 Under Control", looked at one scenario in which testing would be ramped up in the coming weeks, with mobile test stations and strict isolation of those infected.
"To make testing faster and more efficient," Spiegel quoted the paper as reading, "the use of big data and location tracking is unavoidable in the long term."
If the model is followed, scientists who worked on the study calculated that around one million people in Germany would be infected, but only 12,000 would die. The strict procedure would have to be maintained for two months, Spiegel reported.
However, since only a small portion of the population would be immunized against the virus after that time, "a continuously high level of vigilance would have to be maintained", according to the report.
A worst-case scenario in the study looked at what would happen if Germany took little action: some 70 percent of the population would soon be infected, more than 80 percent of would-be intensive care patients would have to be turned away from hospitals, and the death toll would exceed 1 million.
As of Thursday, Germany had 42,288 confirmed cases and 253 deaths from the coronavirus. It has extended a lockdown by banning public meetings of more than two people unless they live in the same household.