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China Turns To Health Apps During Coronavirus Crisis

Tech giants like Tencent and Alibaba have tapped into developing colour-coded systems to classify people based on their health and travel history during the coronavirus outbreak.

China’s tech titans are deploying health-rating systems to work alongside authorities to track the movements of millions of Chinese who are preparing their return to work at factories and other business, adding a new controversial method in the country’s efforts to contain the fast-spreading, potentially fatal virus.

Xinhua News Agency, which is China’s official media outlet, reported this week that the State Council, had instructed Alibaba and Ant Financial Services Group to explore the nationwide rollout of a rating app to help governments control who can travel into and around the city during the outbreak.

(The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images)

Ant Financial and Alibaba worked alongside the government of Hangzhou to create a smartphone-based app that will classify people into three categories of exposure to the outbreak – green, yellow or red – based on their travel history and health.

Gaming and social media giant Tencent also created a similar program for the southern city of Shenzhen.

In a social media post, Ant Financial said the nation system could be launched as early as next week. Tencent also announced it was working with the central government to expand its system across the nation.

In Hangzhou, users are prompted to enter personal information and their current location when first registering. Users then self report their physical condition, choosing from a list of symptoms including dry cough or fever. They are then questioned on their travel history over the past 14 days and if they have come into contact with persons confirmed or suspected to have the virus over the same period.

(AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

The system is operated by the city government through Alibaba platforms and assigns each person to a colour-coded badge. Those marked as green are considered safe and will be given freedoms to roam the city as well as given a QR code to present at checkpoints such as malls and subways.

Staff at the checkpoints will scan or visually check this code as well as take their temperatures before permitting them to pass.

Very little has been commented on about the national system so far and the State Council has not offered a comment at this point.

China’s ruling Communist Party is under mounting pressure to reincarnate the country’s economy after the outbreak of the fatal virus, which has already infected more than 72,000 people and killed at least 1,868.

Businesses in central districts had been brought to a standstill and halted manufacturing and production globally.

(Photo: The spread of the Coronavirus according to the World Health Organisation)

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