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China is fighting COVID-19 with a digital QR code

Health Code system to control people's movements and curb the spread of the coronavirus. CNN Health Code system to control people's movements and curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Chinese government relaying on mobile technology

Staff reporter

April 16, 2020

China: Relying on mobile technology and data, the Chinese government has used a color-based "health code" system to control people's movements and curb the spread of the coronavirus.

On February 15, the e-government office under the State Council instructed Alipay to speed up the development of a health QR code to be rolled out nationwide, Xinhua said.

As with all products of technology, the health app are not perfect — it can make mistakes and assign users the wrong color code, and force the wrong people into quarantine.

As Chinese people resume traveling under the lifting of lockdown measures, another problem has arisen: not all cities and provinces recognize each other's health codes.

Because the databases are not shared among local governments, and because different governments might have different standards for assigning the colors, some have been reluctant to recognize health codes from other places, according to the state-run Legal Daily.

A Hubei resident surnamed Yuan, who returned to Guizhou province to work in late March after the lifting of the lockdown, told the Legal Daily that he had to undergo another 14 days of quarantine in Guizhou, even though he had a green health code from Hubei following a 14-day quarantine there.

To address the issue, the central government has launched a national "epidemic prevention code. " It also uploaded a nationwide database of confirmed and suspected Covid-19 cases and their close contacts on a centralized platform, hoping that local governments can recognize each other's health codes through data sharing, according to Mao Qunan, an official with the National Health Commission.

The health codes rely on troves of data the authorities have collected from individuals — including their personal information, location, travel history, recent contacts and health status.

He said the health codes confirmed to China's internet security law because users are aware of their data being collected, and because the government was involved in the process.

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