Some Hubei residents are seeing their health system QR codes turn green, which may be a sign that life in the epicenter of Covid-19 is a step closer to returning to normal.

Why it matters: Any easing of conditions in Hubei indicates government confidence that the virus is under control.

  • Following the lockdown on Wuhan on Jan. 23, people stuck in Hubei province found their movement increasingly restricted. Some were even locked inside their residential compounds.
  • Quarantining the entire province of Hubei, among other areas, has had serious repercussions for China’s economy, including on tech firms.

Details: Ningning, a resident of Shiyan city, Hubei, reported that after registering on the health code app on March 9, it gave her a grey QR code with a message below, telling her to “continue reporting your health status.” The grey color appeared to be the standard for those in Hubei.

  • Her code turned green a day later, though she was unsure of its significance. In Shiyan, public transport remains at a standstill and private cars are banned from the roads.
  • Freelance translator Zhong Shaoxiong, under lockdown in the city of Xiangyang, said he had a grey code as of March 10. Zhong said he had no idea how the government reviewed applications.
  • “I have a friend who works for government and I noticed he shared some outdoor pictures recently. That’s really a privilege,” said Zhong.
  • His compound has been sealed off for the last 40 days since a person within tested positive for Covid-19. “The local community officials just overreacted—they don’t take any risks of letting us have more freedom,” said Zhong.
  • He said that one of his high school classmates in Xiantao, around 55 miles from Wuhan, has a green QR code, which allows him to move around in the city proper, though he will need other certification and approvals to return to Wuhan, where his business is based. 

Context: The health QR code system, which Hangzhou was the first to pilot on Feb. 11, has seen its use and enforcement vary widely depending on locality.

  • Guangzhou resident Ruohao said on March 10 that some residential compounds had started to use QR codes but that it was “a bit too late,” since the city had not reported any new cases for days.
  • In the eastern city of Hangzhou, which first piloted the app and is also home to Alibaba’s headquarters, residents report that they must show their code each time they use public transport or go to vegetable markets.
  • The national health code system assesses individuals based on basic health information and travel history, and generates a red, yellow, or green code which indicates the degree to which they can freely move around.

Lavender covers regulation and its effects on people. She previously worked in a policy advisory analyzing China’s internal governance for foreign governments and multinationals. A History graduate from...

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