Coronavirus News Asia

QR codes help China fight virus


“Show me your code.”

In post-pandemic China, the most efficient way for residents to get around places unfettered and prove that he or she has a clean slate and is free of the highly infectious novel coronavirus is to get a unique QR code issued and verified by a local health authority.

You will need the travel permit in the form of matrix barcodes on your phone to get out and about, even for a quick stop for food at a grocery store around the corner. That is because shop clerks as well as health inspectors guarding community entrances and city limits across the country are mandated to perform the ritual to check one’s code and turn away those without one, especially at the height of the Covid-19 calamity in January and February, when the pneumonic pathogen swept through China.

Such a QR code system to enter and update one’s health information and keep tabs on people’s movements and aggregations is said to be the brainchild of Chinese tech behemoth Alibaba, which partnered with local authorities in the eastern province of Zhejiang, where the company is based, to tap its expertise in QR code and big data crunching as well as its ubiquitous smartphone apps like AliPay to streamline and digitalize health declaration, monitoring and tracking.

Alibaba squared the idea of “health codes” with local cadres and Zhejiang soon started to spearhead a rollout of a QR code-based reporting and tracking system for its 57.3 million residents in early February. Other provinces and municipalities soon started to take cues, with Tencent, another IT and social networking juggernaut based in southern China, also offering public health agencies access to its WeChat “super-app” to make use of the latter’s all-pervading penetration into the life of netizens and smartphone users.

Almost every resident in China will need a health code to get out and about and enter public venues. Photo: China News Service
The health codes have three colors to indicate risk levels. Only a green code can enable the bearer to travel from one city to another, where different places are still protected by layers of health screening.

Health departments in other provinces started to slot mini-apps into the AliPay and WeChat platforms for residents to enter their personal particulars, including ID numbers, residential addresses and contact details, and complete a health questionnaire regarding their daily routines and travel history for the system to generate a QR code based on their input. These codes will also bear colors for easier identification by health inspectors and law enforcers: green means an all-clear so a bearer can go anywhere untrammeled, while yellow means risks, as a person can be a close contact of a Covid-19 patient and must be confined to their homes or an isolation facility and red indicates a confirmed case.

In the following months, local governments also worked in tandem to issue orders to foist QR code adoption on almost all residents, and those who were not familiar with electronic gadgets were told to seek help from their friends or children to get their own codes. Some senior citizens who did not own smartphones were exempted; they were permitted to carry paper certificates bearing pre-approved codes.

All provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions across China now recognize the codes of people crossing borders so travelers and migrant workers can move around as Beijing whips businesses into frenzied production to resuscitate the ailing economy and claw back lost GDP. In the meantime, local governments are told to continue the “grid-by-grid” monitoring of communities and residential quarters and a QR code for almost everyone is making the otherwise daunting task easy.


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *