China scraps Covid19 tracking app usage

BEIJING, 12 Dec 2022:

China today announced the withdrawal of its nationwide travel history tracking application – in another step towards dismantling its strict “zero Covid” strategy.

The app used to track a person’s travel history in order to detect their passage through an area with Covid19 outbreaks will cease to be operational from tomorrow (Tuesday), authorities said.

It was developed because although each province and city had its own health code and tracking apps, they could not share local data with each other.

The app made it possible to determine if a person had travelled to a city with Covid19-affected areas within China – or returned from abroad – in the last 14 days by using data from China’s three main telecommunications companies.

Many Chinese netizens welcomed the move as it eases travel between provinces and eliminates the risk of people not being able to return to their place of residence or having to quarantine on their return after having travelled to or through an area with a high number of Covid19 infections.

In recent days, official media has begun to downplay the risk of the omicron variant through several articles and interviews with experts – a departure from the country’s “zero-Covid” policy, in effect for almost three years.

The authorities have already said conditions are in place for the country to adjust its anti-pandemic measures in the face of a “new situation,” in which the virus is causing fewer deaths.

However, they have also announced a plan to speed up vaccination of the elderly, one of the most vulnerable groups but at the same time more reluctant to be vaccinated.

Last week, the government announced that it will allow those who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms to isolate at home rather than have to do so at a quarantine centre.

It also said that it will no longer be necessary to have a negative Covid19 test to enter most places and establishments, with the exception of hospitals and schools.

The changes came after protests erupted in several parts of the country following the death of 10 people in an apparently locked-down building in Urumqi.

The government claims it has saved millions of lives through the “zero Covid” strategy, which consists of isolating all those infected as well as their close contacts, strict border controls, restrictions on movement and massive PCR test campaigns wherever a case is detected.