China is working to streamline domestic travel using its controversial high-tech quarantine apps, as numerous provinces in eastern China begin to cooperate with one another in recognizing Health Code systems from other areas.

Why it matters: Provincial governments around the country have rolled out Health Code platforms to track people’s mobility and regulate their movements based on an assessment of their potential Covid-19 infection risks.

  • Based on their travel histories and self-reported health information, the systems have been implemented across Chinese cities and rate a person’s risk of infection as red, yellow, or green, effectively functioning as health passports.
  • Those with granted red passes are required to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days while those rated yellow are required to isolate themselves for a week. People with green codes can travel freely.
  • The codes need to be presented when entering public spaces such as supermarkets, workplaces, and public transport.

Details: Zhejiang, the first place to roll out such a system, along with other eastern Chinese provinces Jiangsu and Anhui, as well as the neighboring municipality of Shanghai are working to recognize one another’s Health Codes so people from these areas can travel around the Yangtze River Delta Economic Zone with fewer restrictions, Hangzhou Daily reported.

  • Foreigners and non-residents visiting or living in Zhejiang’s capital Hangzhou are allowed to register for the city’s Health Code. Other places such as Shanghai previously only allowed residents to apply for such a pass.
  • Zhejiang’s Health Code is also accepted in central Henan province, southwestern Sichuan province, and the island province of Hainan.
  • Health Code systems are have been rolled out in more than 200 cities across China, with Alibaba’s fintech affiliate Alipay and Tencent providing the backbones for the various platforms.
  • Netizens have expressed their concerns about the systems, drawing correlations with the 1998 film “The Truman Show,” in which a man’s life is closely tracked, scrutinized, and broadcast on television.

Context: The agreement highlights China’s urgency in getting people back to work, especially those who have not yet returned to the cities in which they are employed.

  • The country’s economy has taken a hit following the outbreak of Covid-19, a flu-like virus that has killed nearly 3,000 people in China.

Chris Udemans

Christopher Udemans is a Shanghai-based technology reporter. He covers Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, and cybersecurity. You can contact him at chrisudemans [at] technode [dot] com.

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