The travel tracing app will shut down as China relaxes their strict ‘zero-COVID’ policies amid outbreaks and protests.
The travel tracing app was part of a package of apps required for all Chinese citizens, one that traced a user’s location relative to pandemic hot spots. Those found to have recently visited or just passed through places experiencing outbreaks would find themselves forced into quarantine, sometimes with no warning or notification. No other parties were allowed to verify anything about these hot spots, leading to much suspicion that the app was being manipulated and used to suppress travel and free speech.
For three years, China’s zero-COVID policies have enforced lockdowns, extensive quarantines, travel restrictions, mandated testing, and clean bills of health shown to anyone who might ask, from a policeman to your grocer. Early footage of authorities welding shut the doors of COVID-sufferers made it plain they were draconian in their enforcement.
Intense lock-down protocols led directly to the deaths of 10 people in November, when a burning apartment building was locked shut because two residents had been in contact with a hot spot elsewhere. Protests erupted after the fire, and it came out that zero-COVID protocols were bankrupting many cities.
Last week, with no advance notice, the Chinese government announced they would be shuttering most of those policies. At midnight on Monday, December 19, the travel tracing app will cease to function. For the first time in three years, residents’ travels will not be traced and recorded.
China is still taking the disease seriously, with new variants on a sharp upswing in some areas. They are setting up more health care facilities and routing resources to hospitals. But they won’t be requiring those with mild symptoms to be treated in camp-like field hospitals, instead allowing them to recuperate at home, under family care.
Reports on the Chinese internet, which is tightly controlled by the government, sought to reassure a nervous public, stating that restrictions would continue to be dropped and travel, indoor dining and other economic activity would soon be returning to pre-pandemic conditions.